The international event is the brain-child of Rachel Kelly, who first came up with the idea showcasing the best of Ireland in 2010 when the country was in the grip of the worse recession in living memory.
“I thought, 'You know what? We should bring together all the pillars of our culture, and we should get out there on a global stage and say that we are resilient, we are strong, we have a lot to offer,'” explained Kelly.
And what better way to do that than by throwing the biggest and best most premium Irish party ever.
The festival which will showcase contemporary Irish food and drink, music and culture and is expected to attract 30,000 and 40,000 Bostonians over the course of the three-days.
Having worked in the events industry in Ireland, Kelly had the experience she knew she needed to organize iFest, but walking away from a secure position at a time when unemployment rate was at an all time high was not easy
For over a year, the Dublin native toyed with the idea.
“I had a job I loved, [it was] very easy for me to do it, I was very comfortable in it and secure so it is quite hard to walk away from that and jump into the unknown.”
But jump she did.
For the last three years, the mother of three, has worked tirelessly to organize iFest: attracting talent such as Paddy Maloney from The Chieftains, Irish Chef Kevin Dundon, the Riverdance troupe and securing sponsors including Tourism Ireland, Fineos, Guinness, Jameson, Shannon Airport, Aer Lingus and Bord Bia. Another important element for Kelly was ensuring she chose the right international location to stage the inaugural event.
After a visit to Boston three years ago, the decision was a no-brainer.
“I feel like it is home from home,” says Kelly. “Warm, community-based, fabulous Irish heritage, it has the history, …I love that, it is very much like Ireland and everyone welcomed me in and that what made the decision for me.”
While she received the endorsement of the Irish government, Kelly has invested all her money into this venture and she estimates that the event will cost approx. $4 million to stage.
A prospect she says is “scary,” but her unwavering belief that iFest is not only something that will be a great weekend for festival-goers but is also an opportunity to help benefit the next generation of Irish talent has helped keep the business woman focused.
"Lets celebrate Ireland and let’s give a platform for the next up and coming talent.” Kelly said.
Some of that talent includes a varied mix of artists from the Irish music scene like Jack L and up-and-coming band Rip-Tide Movement as well as Irish Chefs Darina Allen, Maura Kilpatrick, and Cathal Armstrong.
Irish literature will be represented with authors Donal Ryan, Christine Hickey, and Claire Kilroy scheduled to take part in book discussions and Irish genealogy experts will be on hand by to answer questions related to tracing the family tree .
iFest will takes place over multiple stages at the Seaport World Trade Center and visitors to the venue will be able to indulge in a Guinness Bar, a Kerrygold Bakery and enjoy a number of whiskey brands on display, including Jameson and the Dingle Distillery.
With less than a week to the event, the Irish entrepreneur is experiencing a wide range of emotions which she sums up as “a white knuckle ride.”
Laughing, Kelly admitted, “Most people would say start something small and I really didn’t.”
iFest Boston will take place at the Seaport World Trade Center from September 26 to 28.
For more information please visit www.ifest.ie