Milwaukee Irish Fest Tips
Another version of this article originally appeared at www.onmilwaukee.com
Tell an Irish citizen you’re from Milwaukee, and they’ll likely give one of two reactions. The over-fifty set tend to sing out “And what made Milwaukee famous?” as they expect an answer to this seemingly ancient reference. Meanwhile, the under fifties more often sigh, “Irish Fest,” as if their grandparents told fireside stories of the event.
It seems everyone on the Emerald Isle has a cousin/neighbor/friend who has danced/played/sang the Fest. It even ranks as an unofficial US pilgrimage for the Celtic Tiger generation…holding its own against shopping in the Big Apple and riding the trolley in San Fran.
The single biggest draw for the Irish lads and ladies–and the army of North Americans–who attend the festival each year is clearly the craic, the Irish word for good times. And to reveal the best spots for great craic at Milwaukee Irish Fest, I’ve pulled together my list of favorites.
Authentic Jameson Irish Whiskey Tasting – Line ‘em up and pour ‘em back as you discover why the Irish call whiskey the “water of life.” For some extra fun, challenge your “Official Jameson Irish Whiskey Ambassador from Ireland” to compare Irish whiskey to scotch without using the word “peaty,” and while you’re at it, have him explain the “angel’s share” as well.
Saturday 1, 3 & 5pm, Sunday 1 & 3pm – Jameson Lounge – $15 per person
Where’s Your Paddy? – I don’t often find myself on the other side of the velvet rope, so the special entertainment, free food and two free beers in the “Where’s Your Paddy?” invite-only area lets me eat, drink and be oh so merry. This Thursday night tradition is intended to attract young professionals (but the young at heart also seem welcome). The only catch is that you need to stop at a local business to pick up your invite.
Thursday 6-9pm – Crossroads Village – FREE with paid festival admission and paper invitation
Family Passport – Specially designed with the kiddies in mind, the Family Passport guides visitors through a sampling of the festival’s best family-friendly sites. Best of all, participants get a snazzy, green Pirate Paddy hat.
Friday 4-7pm, Saturday & Sunday noon-4pm – Various Locations
Auld Belleek Road Show – Wondering if that piece of granny’s Irish Belleek china is worth anything? Gently pack it up and bring it to Tony Hearty, from the UK’s “Antique Road Show” for a free appraisal. The real fun is observing the pack and carry methods employed by the other appraisees.
Thursday – North End of the park – FREE with paid admission
The Cultural Village – The most “Irish” area on the grounds, the Cultural Village delivers music, theater, literature and shopping. There’s enough authentic Irish culture on this end the park that it may qualify as Ireland’s satellite Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region).
Friday, Saturday & Sunday
Liturgy for Peace & Justice – Clocking in at about two hours, it might be a little more “Church” than some people have experienced in a long time, but the huge event includes a fantastic choir, a colorful parade of Irish-American groups and an all-round enjoyable experience. Plus, you can get into the festival free with a donation of non-perishable food…but you have to arrive on time for mass.
Sunday, 9:30am (gates open at 8:30)
Irish Destinations – Planning your trip to Ireland just got a lot easier. A visit to Irish Destinations will introduce you to folks from various regions in ireland. Their locals-only insight is sure to bring up some spots you won’t find in any Internet search. Meanwhile, the Travel Ireland section tends to offer more commercial offerings, so be sure to visit both.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday
The Grand Hooley – Even the performers comment on how much they enjoy the crowd at Thursday’s Grand Hooley. The smaller numbers not only create a more intimate experience for interacting with the performers and other attendees, but the wait at the beer tent is a lot shorter as well.
The Snug & the Village Pub – Sure the big stages are great, but the Snug and the Village Pub are my favorite spots for Irish music. The sessions are cozy and often improptu…which means you shouldn’t be surprised to find the members of the headliner acts showing up and joining the fun.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Paddy Bingo – Okay, I might not be a bingo regular, but when it gets too hot or too rainy, this tent is my not-so-secret refuge.
Celtic Canines – Irish Wolfhounds, Setters and seven other breeds of Irish dogs show off their special skills, and visitors are invited to meet the animals.
Tug-of-War – Grown men and women pulling a big rope might not sound all that exciting, but watch one bout, and you’ll be hooked.
Shop ‘Til You Drop – Remember there are three areas with Irish and Celtic wares – Lilliput Marketplace, Grafton Square and the Moore Street Market.
Milwaukee Irish Fest
Aug 14, 15, 16, 17, 2008
I hope to see you there!
Here are some clips that include some Irish Fest scenes for you to enjoy:
And a diary from last year’s VERY WET Irish Fest