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New Orleans celebrates fourth annual Irish Festival

The Poor Clares perform as a crowd gathers at the Kingsley House.

Sofia Gilmore-Montero, News Editor

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On Saturday, Sept. 16, Kingsley House hosted the annual Irish Fest, a celebration of Irish culture and heritage in New Orleans. People from around the nation gathered at the event – some dancers and tourists, others vendors.

The Fest featured multiple lectures on Irish history, a Red Hair and Freckles Contest, various Irish dancing competitions, a Kilt Runway Contest and multiple bands and musicians, such as The New Orleans Celtic Harp Ensemble and Stephen’s Green, among other events and activities.

Like many other festivals in New Orleans, Irish Fest focuses on one strand of the city’s history.  

“I think it’s a unique festival and it highlights the multicultural facet of our city,”  said Liz Sigler, assistant to the vice president for research and sponsored programs and coordinator of graduate research programs. “There were a lot of Irish that came to New Orleans that helped dig the canals. So it highlights the Irish in New Orleans and the immigrants that came in.”

Sigler dances with the Muggivan School of Irish Dance in Metairie and attended the Irish Channel Feis at the fest. While many dancers hailed from the New Orleans area, there were also many from across the states.

Damon Griffin, a junior majoring in physics and Mandarin at the Georgia Institute of Technology, returned this past weekend to attend the fest. Griffin dances for the Drake School of Irish Dance in Norcross, Georgia, and had previously competed in the national championships held in New Orleans in July.

“I like the fact that they have second-change championship, which means that the dancers get the chance to dance again for the championships,” Griffin said. “[But] I do think a lot more guys should get into Irish dance, because I feel like there is a great camaraderie between the guys in the competition.”

Despite the day-long Feis event’s prominence, the fest focused on communal aspects, which allowed artists from near and far to show their talent and love of all things Irish. Betsy McGovern, vocalist of The Poor Clares, came to New Orleans when she was 19. The Poor Clares have played all four years of the Fest and have also played for the largest Irish festival in the world, the Milwaukee Irish Fest.

“I love seeing the New Orleans Irish community. There’s dancers here and all the amateur musicians, people that play in the sessions, the neighbors [and the] former students, so I love seeing everybody,” McGovern said.  

If you doubt the endorsement of an American, just ask Maxine Longobardi, co-owner of Irish Peach Imports, for her opinion.

“It’s nice to still see the Irish culture still alive,” said Longobardi, a native of County Cork, Ireland. “In 2017, you have the traditions, the dancing, the music, food, everything … and it’s great for Irish people to meet up!”

The sense of community was overwhelming.  From the children’s face-painting table and the horse rides to the local snowcone truck and the live music, the fest displayed what New Orleans is really all about.

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New Orleans celebrates fourth annual Irish Festival