Rain Can't Dampen Milwaukee Success
THE 27th annual Milwaukee Irish Fest closed out Sunday night literally with a bang with the usual fireworks display over the Lake Michigan shores alongside the Henry W. Maier Festival Park. Usually it provides the final memory for those who stick it to the very end of the four-day event every August that represents the largest Irish festival in the world on the spacious and convenient grounds just made for an outdoor summer festival that has attracted 140,000 in the past for Irish Fest.
But an ill-timed and severe rain storm arrived Saturday and Sunday curtailing some of the performances of the 100 acts who were to perform on the 16 well-placed stages over the two busiest days of Irish Fest, testing the mettle of the 4,000 strong volunteer operation and also the fortitude, determination and pride of thousands of Irish music fans who flock to this Wisconsin marvel each year.
The thousands of fans who remained for the final moments were heralded first from the stage by all the artists gathered for the ritually symbolic scattering on the Aer Lingus stage with Mistress of Ceremonies Joanie Madden declaring, "The Milwaukee audiences the best in the world" especially for sitting in the rain at exposed stages.
More poignantly, those same fans got applause and high fives from a representative sample of that volunteer brigade led by the Irish Fest President Joe King as they made their way to the main exit gate who also admired their support and pluck under the adverse conditions. After all, the rain for the Irish only makes the celebration of their spirit that much hardier.
The Midwest was hit with a terrible rain storm this past weekend that flooded out other parts of Wisconsin and the Mississippi region that created more tragic circumstances elsewhere, so at least things weren't that drastic on the 80 acres of this outdoor festival site.
Some performances were dropped or rescheduled on Saturday, the worst day of the festival as the committee sought to salvage it as best they could given the extraordinary number of travelers who come from far and near each August.
In particular Leinie's Celtic rock stage facing the lakefront directly took the major hit from some damage to the equipment and stage that knocked it out of commission. Ironically this provided a relief to its neighboring Celtic roots stage that was a sheltered tent and therefore unaffected by the storm since the annoying drum and bass beat wasn't there to disrupt the acoustic music that was the featured here all weekend.
A special theme at this creatively programmed site this year was Celtic women in music, which not only featured a photographic display of women down through the years but it featured most of the female guests selected for it.
Liz Carroll, Aoife Clancy, Cathie Ryan, Eddi Reader (from Scotland) and Liadan (from Ireland) made repeat performances there, and all managed to also be on hand for Sunday Cherish the Ladies gig.
Billed as the 20th anniversary reunion show on the larger Aer Lingus stage in the middle of the grounds, the heavens were dry for most of the fabulous show produced by Madden the founding member along with Mary Coogan who welcomed their muse, Dr. Mick Moloney as the first performer for this memorable show.
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