West Dundee fest lets you get your Irish up

Source: Annie Alleman, napervillesun.suntimes.com

Thursday, 08th Sept, 2011

It’s nearly halfway to St. Patrick’s Day, and you can get your fix of Irish pride at the Fox Valley Irish Fest.

The Murphy Roche Irish Music Club performs during the Fox Valley Folk Festival Sunday at Island Park in Geneva.

The 16th annual Fox Valley Irish Festival is held from 5 to 11 p.m. today, 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday. The fest is part of the St. Catherine of Siena centennial celebration, will be held on the church grounds at Routes 31 and 72 in West Dundee, two miles north of I-90.

“It’s a fun time; it’s really good entertainment,” said Dan Biggins, festival chairman. “It’s a real good community event.”

The fest was started as a fundraiser for the church, and has since expanded from two days to three.

“We’ve added more vendors in the market place. There are more Irish goods and products and music,” he said. “The entertainment has expanded. There are new acts this year along with returning favorites.”

Entertainment tapped for this year’s fest includes Brigid’s Cross, The Fenians, The Whigmaleeries, Band of Rogues, the Larkin and Moran Brothers, Dyed in the Wool, Solid-Aire, Paddy Homan, and the Chicago Celtic Bag Pipers.

“Brigid’s Cross has been with us since the beginning and is performing Friday and Saturday nights. They are very popular,” he said. “This year, the Friday and Saturday bands are more up-tempo and get-the-crowd-going music. Foot stomping stuff. Sunday is quieter. We call it Irish folk music day.”

Irish dance has traditionally been a big part of the festival, and this year will be no different with dancers from the Celtic Drifters and Mayer School of Irish Dance performing.

The Celtic Drifters feature champion Irish dancer Kevin Horton of Mundelein, who performed for six years with Riverdance Beijing. Horton has performed at Radio City Music Hall and appeared as a guest performer on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

Additionally, the popular Shapeshifters Theatre from the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago will perform a comedy sketch at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

There are activities for all ages. The littlest leprechauns can visit the Wee Folk area, and do things like crafts and kiddie karaoke. Ditto the Clown will be on hand, as will author R.T. Moser, reading from his book “Little Fables, Short Stories, Big Lessons.” Kids can design a family crest, have a dance party, and enjoy stickers, face painting, temporary tattoos, friendship bracelets and music-related crafts and entertainment, he said.

This year, there is no admission charge for the Wee Folks tent. Children 12 and under are free with a paid adult to the festival. Admission for adults is $10 Friday and Saturday and $5 on Sunday; a three-day pass is $20. Admission for seniors 65 and over is $8 on Friday and Saturday and $5 on Sunday.

Fest-goers can look forward to a traditional Irish feast of corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread; as well as turkey legs, fish and chips, pizza, steak sandwiches, pulled pork, ice cream, roasted corn picked fresh locally, burgers, hot dogs, scones, egg rolls, chicken on a stick, tacos and burritos.

The event happens rain or shine. That’s why they do the event in September, when it’s not too hot and the threat of snow is hopefully at a minimum.

In the market, vendors will be selling Celtic items such as wool sweaters, jewelry, glassware and more, he said.

“There will also be CDs of Irish music that are not just popular common names, but also more specialized music that might not be widely available in the States,” Biggins said.

Finally, it’s not a pot of gold, but one lucky leprechaun has the chance to win $10,000 in the shamrock raffle. There will be 400 tickets available at $100 each. The winner will be announced at the fest’s closing at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, and the winner need not be present.

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