The 36th East Durham Irish Festival scheduled for Memorial Day weekend at the Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre at 2267 Route 145 in East Durham, New York will feature new events along with 21 Irish bands on two stages.

The line up for this year’s annual international event includes Shilelagh Law, Black 47, the Narrowbacks, Andy Cooney, Celtic Cross, Band of Rogues and the McLean Avenue Band. Joining the New York bands are Boston's Erin Og and the Ricey Dicey Band. Four bagpipe shows and four step dancing shows round out the entertainment.

An Irish Heritage Family Park Committee has been formed to enhance plans for this year’s activities with many things for families to do.   

The day will begin at 10 a.m. with Mass at the Mass Rock Altar.  A Mass rock was a rock used in Ireland as an altar at a time when observing the Mass was illegal.    

This altar is similar to what would have been found in Ireland in those early days.  Ken Dudley and Terry Patterson will conduct tours of the Mass Rock as well as the Irish Cottage.

A special feature of the weekend will be the first annual Irish Festival Idol contest.  Contestants in two age groups are invited to participate, eight to 15 year olds and 16-25 year olds.

The older group will perform on Saturday at noon.  For these groups there will be four prizes -- $100 first prize, $50 second, $25 third, and tickets to the Zoom Flume fourth.  The winner will perform on stage Saturday night. 

On Sunday at noon, the eight to 15 year olds will compete.  The winner of this contest will receive a trophy, tickets to the Zoom Flume and the opportunity to perform on stage Sunday evening.

There is a $20 entry fee for the older group and a $10 fee for younger participants.  Call the Cultural Center at 518-634-2286 for more details and to register for both contests.

The Irish cottage, an authentic Donegal cottage which was disassembled and shipped to East Durham, will be open.  At the cottage, costumed guides will make scones and tea over a turf fire.

Also at the cottage, sheep from Heather Ridge Farm will provide an opportunity for children to see real sheep up close and learn the connection between the sheep and the wool they produce.   Heather Ridge Farm will bring along raw wool and provide demonstrations of how the raw wool is spun into fiber, and how that fiber is turned into home goods and clothing pieces such as rugs, sweaters and scarves.

Visitors can buy bricks to be installed in the largest map of Ireland in the world.  All the counties are accurately marked out and each county has its own flag placed on it. 

Mary Feeney will conduct a ceili dancing workshop at noon and 5 p.m. both days. The workshop will include dances such as the Clare Set, Stack of Barley, the Jive and the Gay Gordon, just to name a few.

The Between the Jigs and Reels Productions will present Irish Legends, a lively retelling of beloved Irish stories from long ago -- the adventures of Setanta, Finn McCool, and the Giant from Scotland are told with song, poetry and puppets. This is a show for boys and girls of all ages. The play will be presented at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on both days.

Rugby, poetry and Irish language with Tom Malley, and music workshop/sessions will round out the family events.


Andy Cooney will be among the performers at the East Durham Irish Festival this weekend.