East Durham Festival: a Memorial Day Irish Woodstock
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Every Memorial Day weekend in a little town in the Catskills called East Durham, an Irish style Woodstock takes place.
The “Emerald Isle” of the popular New York vacation region is home to the annual East Durham Irish Festival, and this year, the festival’s 32nd, despite spots of rain and the cloudy economy, was as fun-filled and musical as ever.
Irish and Irish Americans from the northeast and beyond flocked to America’s oldest and largest Irish music festival.
IrishCentral caught up with Tom McGoldrick, a first generation Irish American with roots in Mayo and Cavan, and the festival’s director for the past 31 years, during the event.
“It’s going very well,” he said. “We brought an awful lot of new music this year, and it’s all been so well received.”
The East Durham Irish Fest prides itself on introducing fresh Irish music to the scene. This year, popular bands like The Elders from Kansas City, and Barley Juice, from Philadelphia, rocked the crowds with the Irish hits.
The gloomy economy and the on-and-off rainy weather didn’t deter fans of Irish music – around 14,000 people attended the weekend-long Irish festival this year. When it rained, the masses flocked to the pavilions and tents to shop around the Irish vendors’ stands, listen to contemporary Irish music and dance to traditional Irish tunes.
McGoldrick explains that because their festival is very affordable, and because they bring in “fresh music” every year, attendance remains as high as festivals past.
East Durham Irish Festival’s success can also be attributed to the event’s ability to cater to Irish of all ages and from varying walks of life.
Families can bring their kids to the various carnival rides, and teach them an Irish step or two and the Irish dancing tent, while partiers enjoyed the inexpensive beer and Irish rock music.
The continued enthusiasm and support for the festival shows that East Durham’s Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Center does a fine job of “keeping the Irish American tradition alive,” as their mission statement says.
“Irish Americans support Irishness more than anyone,” said McGoldrick. “If it weren’t for Irish Americans, you wouldn’t have any of this great music.”
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