The New Haven Irish festival is in its 47thyear, but that doesn't’ mean surprises don’t occur. This year, there will be two. The producers of TV show "Deal or No Deal" have decided to hold a casting call on Saturday at the festival to find “charismatic individuals” to appear on the show. And the Feis Commission was given the New Haven George Sweetnam Memorial Minor Belt to bestow to the best Irish dancer at the feis this Sunday, after vying for the award at the convention for all North American feis commissions earlier this year.
The "Deal or No Deal" casting competition fell to the festival entirely by chance. “The gentleman happened to find the festival on the internet,” says Anne Hines, Conneticut Irish festival chair. After a few weeks of communication between the show’s producers and festival organizers, they decided to have a casting call at the festival. As Dennis Regan, the festival promoter, put it, “This just fell into our lap.”
Contestants on "Deal or No Deal" have a chance to win a million dollars, so it’s a lucrative opportunity (although their prize might be as small as one penny if they make the wrong choices). The producers are looking for outgoing contestants, over 18, who are enthusiastic about the show.
The festival will also have a range of other cultural events. On Saturday morning Mrs. Conneticut will make an appearance, and on Saturday evening, legendary Dublin band the Wolfe Tones will keep festival-goers entertained. There’s also an agricultural show, which will include sheep-shearing and pony rides.
On Sunday, 680 dancers will compete in the feis, in competitions for dancers ranging from beginners to championship level. Feis organizers are giving out scholarships ranging from $250 to $750, and then there’s the belt. “In judo they have a black belt or a red belt, -- it’s for the cream of the crop,” says Anne Hines. “The George Sweetnam Memorial Minor Belt is a huge trophy.”
All this potential for prizes and lucre, as well as fun, is generating huge interesting in the festival. “Everybody is curious about it,” Hines says. “I’m picking up a couple of hundred phone calls a day.”