Nine years ago I serendipitously stumbled upon the Herkimer Fairgrounds where the residents were in the midst of dance, food, and music. Perhaps this German girl mistook this gathering as an Oktoberfest, as they do seem quite similar minus the brats. I was a few months early if that was the case … as I meandered my way among kilted kin and raised beer steins, I couldn’t help wonder as my toes began tapping how I could have missed this in the past. Everywhere I turned there were delectable sights and sounds as three venues featured wonderful live music, and vendors galore beckoned my growling stomach with eats to enjoy.
Fast forward to July 2015 and you’ll find me front and center with my new kindred kin at The Great American Irish Festival. Fast friends have been formed amongst this group; a family of sorts. Friendships with staff, attendees, and performers have grown as has this event over the course of the last decade. Changes have occurred over the course of that time as well. This year I am happy to report they were all positive changes for the Festival. Under new leadership this year, the festival in my opinion was a huge success. Starting from almost scratch again, these dedicated volunteers stepped in and up to move this festival forward under difficult circumstances. Although this festival may be eons old, this group of amazingly talented and wonderful people plugged through and pulled it off. The whole attitude was uplifting and positive. As in any change of management there were hiccups but all in all, I want to send sincere kudos out to Director, Judy Weeks, and her entire staff. I felt that this years event was the best one yet.
For those that may not be familiar with the Great American Irish Festival, it’s one of the largest here in the northeast featuring three days of music on three separate stages, vendors galore selling their celtic wares, as well as food vendors. Always held the final weekend in July, you can pretty much plan to pack an umbrella as there is always a downpour at some point and time. This never discourages those that camp on site, or the attendees as all music venues are covered against the weather and the show always goes on.
Offering a Golf Tournament, 5K Race, Celtic games, and an Irish Mass on Sunday, in addition to all the best Celtic music from locals to national acts, attendees travel from all over to partake in the festivities. This years lineup was as stellar as previous years bringing back favorites like The Elders, Barleyjuice, Eileen Ivers, The Moxie Strings, and Glengarry Bhoys, and reintroducing us to sounds from 1916, Rathkeltair, and The Fighting Jamesons at the festivities. Always a participant in some capacity at the festival, this year it was my distinct pleasure to cover this festival for NYSMusic and share the following galleries of weekend events with you all.
Haven’t been to a Celtic Festival yet? What are you waiting for? Mark your calendars for 2016 folks and you can thank me later. Whether Irish or not, you’ll find that when at GAIF, you are family.