Mercer Irish Fest

Source: Candice Martinez, Trenton Dance Clubs Examiner

Tuesday, 13th Sept, 2011

A rainbow in New Jersey might not lead to an Irish leprechaun with a pot of gold, but there might be an Irish pub with a pot of beef stew. Trenton flaunted its Irish heritage with an energetic festival that was large in attendance.

The Trenton Irish Heritage Foundation held the first annual Mercer Irish Fest at Mercer County Park on Saturday, September 10th. Hub City Distributing, Guinness, Miller Light, and Poulson & Van Hise sponsored the event; featuring 10 bands and 15 vendors. Irish culture was heard, felt, tasted, and even worn.

“It turned out to be a beautiful day,” said LaValle Williams, of Lawrenceville, owner of LaValle’s Party Jumps, who provided 7 moon bounces for the children’s activities.

It is 21 to drink, but grown-up fun ends with the moon bounce. Children had their very own section to play in, as some spots were “kids only”. The area included moon bounces, airbrush tattoos, water ice, toy vendors, and pony rides.

According the Committee Chairman Dave Papp, over 3,000 attendees came to celebrate the Gaelic festival.

The large crowd was diverse and active. Some attendees were not Irish at all, some were mixed with a small amount of Irish, some were Irish-American, and others were straight from Ireland. Notably, a few of those who came from the island nation, spoke Celtic.

The Mercer Irish Fest is helping to fund the Trenton St. Patrick’s Day Parade, said Shannon Moscarello, a staff member from Trenton.

Bill Briggs was one of the original founders of the Trenton St. Patrick’s Day Parade, said Jude Tracey, from Hamilton, a committee chairperson for the Bill Briggs Scholarship Committee.

According to him, the Bill Briggs Scholarship sends kids to study at the Coláiste Gael Linn Cultural College in Ireland.

“This year, we sent 3 kids from Mercer County. They go over and learn the language, culture, and music,” he said.

Another organization that participated in Mercer Irish Fest was Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, Háthair Gael Division 10. Members explained that “Háthair Gael” translates to “Mothers of Ireland”.

“We have a lot of fundraisers and donate the money to different charities,” said Jacoba Kenna, from Hamilton Township, president of AOH Division 10.

Upon the organizations’ tables were signs being sold, that featured engraved Celtic phrases. Tracey translated the writing. “Céad Mile Fáilte” means “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes”, “Sláinte” means “Cheers”, and “Saoirse” means “Freedom”.

Participants at the festival could both talk the Celtic talk and walk the Celtic walk in a kilt.

Chris Beyer, from Pennington, owns American Highlander, a Celt clothing business.

He was selling kilts made of blended-wool for $75, which were “traditionally made and traditionally styled”, he said.

“I’ve worn kilts my whole life,” he said. “Even though it’s more of a Scottish thing, the Irish still wore them in regiment.”

According to him, it is taboo for a woman to ask a man if he is wearing anything underneath his kilt. This question will not receive a direct answer, if any.

Aside from Celtic gear, imported Irish food was available.

Cheryl Koster and Frank Connell of Breffni Food Gifts had a plethora of grocery items straight from Ireland for sale. Among these items were vegetable soup, potato chips, energy drinks, Mi Wadi concentrate, Bolands Custard Cremes, Batchelors Peas, and other brands that a consumer would not find in a common grocery store.

“We do festivals and this one is great,” Koster said. “I think it’s doing very well for the first year.”

“This was an awesome turnout,” said Paul Wiese, singer and guitarist for Birmingham 6. “It’s a great day for the Irish!”

The band tends to do more original Irish music and writes their own songs. Their music is a harder “punk rock type of feel”, he said.

The band performed their songs Molly, With Friends, and At Last.

Among other featured bands were The Nog Bhoys, The Malones, The Pride of Moville Ceili Band, as well as several other artists.

“It was excellent and a huge success,” said Jim Maguire, a beer garden staff member from Hamilton. “This was better than expected.”

The beer garden tickets were coded as green for domestic; and yellow for imported and Irish Coffee. The import beers included Smithwicks, Harp, and Guinness on tap. Domestic beer was Miller Lite on tap; also available was Twisted Tea and Smirnoff in a bottle, as well as Jeremiah Weed in a can.

Attendees flooded the beer garden for laughter, dancing, and spirited atmosphere. The crowd was warm and care-free for this Celtic festival.

“We look forward to having it next year,” Moscarello said.

The Trenton area celebrated life together in the Irish spirit. The younger drinkers danced to folk music, while the elderly enjoyed punk rock. Not everyone had an Irish background, but everyone felt love from the crowd. A truly connected community not only recognizes and respects its members’ differences, it also celebrates those differences. A variety is taste makes for a refined taste.

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