Irish Fest celebrates 33 years in Chicago

CHICAGO- The upbeat tempo of the fiddle and the smell of Guinness beer swirled through the air as crowds of people in green attire were entertained at the Irish American Heritage Center this past weekend.

Over 15,000 people celebrated the 33rd annual Irish American Heritage Festival on the North Side of Chicago in the Mayfair neighborhood from July 6 to July 8. The festival is the center’s largest event and fundraiser during the year.

Anna McGuiness, 72, originally from Donegal, Ireland, has sold wool sweaters and Celtic jewelry at the festival for numerous years. McGuiness admired the authentic Irish music and culture that reminded her of her homeland.

“It’s the next best thing to going to Ireland,” McGuinness said.

Ann Koeb, 68, lives one block away from the Irish American Heritage Center and has attended the event for several years. Koeb delighted in the festival’s music even though she is not Irish.

“You don’t have to be Irish to come here and have fun,” said Koeb.

The melodies from the flute and banjo reverberated through the festival as musical headliners such as JigJam, Gaelic Storm, and We Banjo 3 performed onstage.

Under a white tent outdoors, folk music enthusiasts tapped their feet and clapped their hands while Irish musician Rory Makem, 48, strummed his guitar. Makem beamed with pride as he spoke of the center’s preservation of Irish traditions.

“I like the community they have created at the cultural center,” said Makem. “It’s incredible.”

Inside the center, attendees ascended the wooden staircase to savor a cup of tea, scones, and jam in the Shamrock Tea Room. Downstairs in the auditorium, young girls sported embroidered velvet costumes and large curly hair while dancing the Irish Jig.

Kathy O’Neill, 50, of Chicago, was one of the festival’s organizers and she encouraged all people to experience Irish culture.

“We want everyone to come whether they want to be Irish at Irish Fest or for one day a year on Saint Patrick’s Day,” said O’Neill.

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