By Brian Donohue
The Greater Hartford Irish Music Festival has grown in leaps and bounds since its humble beginnings 28 years ago. What started as a small club event and Field Day has transformed into a Full-fledged weekend extravaganza, which attracts 25,000 visitors over the three day event this weekend.
For over a quarter century, The Hartford Irish Festival has brought the splendor of Irish music and culture to thousands of visitors who have flocked there from all over the northeast. The three day summer has continuously expanded and has developed into the largest Irish festival in New England.
The festival, which is run by The Irish American Home Society, takes place in Glastonbury, CT which makes the three day event easily accessible to visitors from both the Boston and New York metro areas. The festival is seen by volunteers as an opportunity to welcome visitors from throughout the Northeast to the Society’s “home” in Glastonbury.
The event has sustained itself over the years as the result of the dedication of countless individuals, committed to the development and encouragement of Irish culture. It was the original organizers, who saw a festival as a way to promote and celebrate Irish culture while also helping to achieve the ongoing goals of the Irish American Home Society.
The musical lineup has always been a tremendous draw, and this year will be no different. Revelers will be treated to some of the biggest names in the Irish and Irish American music. On Friday evening Padraig Allen & The McLean Avenue band take the stage. Arguably one of the busiest acts out of the New York scene these days, the band is an eclectic mix of musicians who cumulatively have over fifteen years experience.
Unforgettable Fire is one of the very first U2 tribute bands to ever perform in America. After over seventeen years of playing in some of the most prestigious venues on the East Coast, UF has formed a reputation among many to be one of the closest experiences to being at an actual live U2 show.
Saturday plays host to a busy lineup including The Brian Gibney Band, Keltic Kick, a performance by the Mulcahy School of Irish Dance as well as headliners Shilelagh Law and The Prodigals. Both acts have a traditional feel with an underlying raucous element, and are an absolute can’t miss.
The top notch musical lineup continues on Sunday with Andy Cooney who was christened by The New York Times as "Irish America's Favorite Son". With his outstanding voice and dynamic stage presence Cooney has been a crowd favorite for years. If you are unable to catch the Mulcahy School on Saturday, Sunday provides another excellent opportunity. Rounding out Sunday’s performances will be The New York Showband, a group that has become well known for their classic entertaining style, and playing a wide range of musical genres, the Showband gets people dancing.
There is also a wide array of cultural treats to be found throughout the complex. The famous cultural tent will profile traditional music, song and dance (including set-dancing, step-dancing and ceili-dancing) and an extensive display on Irish heritage, as well as genealogy research conducted by Connecticut Celtic Cultural Committee. There you can immerse yourself in the history, literature and traditions that have shaped the aura of the emerald isle throughout the world.
Other displays and discussions on topics such as bread baking, the uniquely Irish art of story telling and The Great Famine have been mainstays of the festival for many years. Irish goods and products from a string of fine vendors are also available for purchase in a fashion that the organizers boast “would rival O’Connell Street.”
An excellent addition to this year’s festival will be the youth GAA clinics throughout the weekend. Kids of any age and experience are more than welcome to try their hand at football and hurling. A great way to keep the little ones busy while learning a sport that they could possibly fall in love with.
Another new event, geared toward the adults, will be the Whiskey Tasting. A representative from Jameson will be on hand explaining the ins and outs of Whiskey during three different sessions on Saturday.
A family favorite and a hit with festival-goers each year, The St Patrick's Pipe Band will be appearing each day throughout the festival. Founded in 1947, the band attends the opening and closing ceremonies and appears intermittently at various times throughout the festival.
The festival is truly a family affair and the efforts of dedicated volunteers have ensured a fun and engaging family environment. There is an expansive children’s area that includes rides, games of chance, cotton candy and other treats that will satisfy kids of all ages.
The organizers have put together a Happy Hour for the Greater Hartford Irish Music Festival at Hanafins Pub, Glastonbury, CT on Thursday July 19. If you’re in the area, join them for drink specials and snacks. Plus you can purchase pre-sale tickets for the Festival at the discounted price of $8.00. For more information please visit IrishMusicFest.com