Celtic Pride comes to Wheaton’s cultural scene

Source: Aaron Kraut, gazette.net

Wednesday, 14th Sept, 2011

Royal Mile Pub has a 30-year history in Wheaton. The Limerick Pub, steps away on Elkin Street, opened in March.

Saturday, the owners of both establishments hope to make up for lost time when they join to celebrate a common heritage. The Harp & Thistle Celtic Festival will include Irish and Scottish musical performances, vendors and food at the corner of Elkin Street and Price Avenue.

Mike Moore, owner of the Scottish-style Royal Mile Pub, and Neil Foley and Tom Stanton, owners of the Irish Limerick Pub, got together to set up the event with friend Ken Strafer, who runs Project Enduring Pride, a nonprofit that helps wounded veterans. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the project.

Saturday’s event is the first of its kind in the Central Business District of Wheaton, more known for its wealth of Latin-owned businesses. Foley, a longtime Irish fiddle and whistle player, said he thinks the event will bolster the sense of diversity in the area.

“I think it’s perfect. When we opened the pub, we just thought it would add to the variety here,” Foley said. “And there was really a shortage of places and things like this in Wheaton.”

Saturday’s event, which Moore said will be the first of its kind in Wheaton’s history, will serve as both an experiment and as a halfway to St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Moore said he’s hoping for at least 2,000 attendees. With logistical help from the Wheaton Urban District Team out of the Mid-County Regional Services Center, the bar owners got the necessary permits to set up a beer garden and food tent. Stanton said the success of Saturday’s inaugural festival will show if it can be an annual event. The organizers have participated in similar events with a broader Wheaton focus.

“We may find over time that this festival stands on its own, or we may find that participating in World of Montgomery or Taste of Wheaton is the way to go,” Stanton said. “But there seems to be plenty of interest and demand for a festival of this type.”

Moore said he’s long seen that interest from customers, many of whom participate in his pub’s distinctly Scottish events. The pub stages a popular monthly Scottish music jam sesson.

“The Celtic community in the area has constantly come back to Royal Mile, because we’re nearby and we provide good service to them,” Moore said.

Sidney Cooper, marketing and events manager with Wheaton Urban District, said the festival should be a welcome addition to Wheaton’s roster of cultural events. As opposed to The Taste of Wheaton, which took place in May, and the World of Montgomery, which will take place next month, The Harp & Thistle Celtic Festival was created and organized independent of major assistance from the county agency.

“It’s always great when businesses are vested in their community,” Cooper said. “We want to do things that will help to highlight businesses and have things for the community, but sometimes it means even more when a business takes the lead, and they really took the lead in this.”

The festival will feature eight musical acts from noon to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for ages 12 to 17. Event admission is free for children younger than 12 and disabled veterans.

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