Source: Brian Donohue, irishemigrant.com
Tuesday, 06th Sept, 2011
The ever-growing annual Milford Irish Festival may still be a bit smaller than some of its counterparts in the northeast, but it is that intimacy which makes it so exceptional. At this coastal gathering, the casual atmosphere maintains the perfect balance between the festive and a family-friendly community party. Located between Bridgeport and New Haven, Milford is just a short hop from New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
When the Irish Heritage Society of Milford organized its inaugural festival in 2006, it had less than ample time to plan such an undertaking – roughly six weeks to organize musicians, vendors, volunteers and permits. Despite being behind the eight ball, the Society focused on putting together a top notch musical lineup, and the frenzied hard work paid off; that initial festival saw around 1,600 in attendance, and the celebration has grown consistently in popularity ever since.
This, the sixth annual Milford Irish Festival, marks the first year the event will take place on Friday as well as Saturday. Festivities kick off Friday evening with The Alehounds, an acoustic duo quickly making a name for themselves playing a blend of Irish and American folk and rock. The night continues with The Mighty Ploughboys, a Connecticut-based operation who bring an exceptional amount of energy to every performance, fusing Irish classics with a classic rock sound.
Saturday’s lineup will feature performances by The Gaelic Highland Pipe Band, The Kathleen Mulkerins School of Irish Dancing, and The Lenihan School of Irish Dancing. Calley McGrane and the Exiles will impress audiences with their heartfelt singing of traditional ballads, combined with electrifying fiddling.
Headliners at this year’s festival will be seasoned veterans Keltic Kick. This acclaimed collective have been at the forefront of the concert scene in the Northeast for over three decades, and will bring their unique brand of energized traditional tunes to Milford. Keeping with the tradition of introducing acts new to the locality, Milford revelers will be treated to a performance by Barleyjuice, a Philadelphia powerhouse with five studio albums and a double CD collection to their name, currently one of the most popular Celtic rock bands around.
As well as the top class music, attendees will also have the opportunity to feast on the best of food, including staples Shepherd’s Pie, Irish stew and Bangers and Mash, as well as the gamut of classic American fair food. Beverages to choose from include a $5 pint of Guinness, Harp, Coors Light, cider, wine and a range of non-alcoholic choices – something for everybody.
For those interested in exploring their Irish roots the Cultural Tent will be the main attraction, with the Connecticut Irish American Historical Society on hand to assist with genealogy research. On top of this, heritage enthusiasts will be treated to an Irish language booth, an Irish trivia contest and Irish step dancing demonstrations by The Mulkerin School of Irish Dance and The Lenihan School of Irish Dance. Performances by the likes of the local Milford Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, and traditional seisiuns, will keep toes tapping throughout the day.
The Marketplace will feature vendors from near and far, including one making the trip from Dingle, Co. Kerry for the third year straight. All manner of Irish goods will be available including clothes and jerseys, Celtic jewelry and glasswork.
Attractions to keep the little ones busy will include face painting, coloring, plant-a-shamrock, games and prizes, step dancing demonstrations and a rock climbing wall. There will also be a concession area with snow cones, cotton candy, soft pretzels and juice.
The sixth annual Milford, CT Irish Festival will be held on Friday, Sept 16 from 6 pm to 9:30 pm and Saturday, Sept 17 from 11 am to 9:30 pm, rain or shine. It’s not just another Irish cultural event; it’s an inexpensive way to have some old-fashioned family fun. Entry is just $5 for adults on Friday, $10 on Saturday, and children under 12 are free. For more information and full schedule visit milfordirish.org.