At the Shoppes of the Emerald Isle building, two girls broke out into an impromptu dance routine with quick steps and high kicks while those around them clapped a beat for them.
Siobhan Conley, of Sauquoit, who was dressed in a sparkling green dancing outfit, said she and Gabby Deitz, of Pennsylvania, had a reason for showing off their skills.
“They said they would give us free cookies if we did,” said Conley, with a smile, standing in front of the Infamous Welsh Cookie Co. Someone was overheard saying after that they would dance for free beer.
The dancing, however, was a sample of what could be found throughout the grounds at the 9th Great American Irish Festival held at the Herkimer County Fairgrounds over the weekend.
“I think it’s important that people around here realize that this is not just a big local event” said Matthew Sullivan, festival director in a news release. “The Great American Irish Festival is recognized internationally as one of the top Irish festivals in the world.”
The event is held by the Great American Irish Festival, Inc., a non-profit organization comprised of approximately 750 volunteers whose goal is to establish the Irish Cultural Center of the Mohawk Valley. Construction has already begun on the site of the former St. Patrick’s Church at the corner of Columbia and Varick streets in Utica.
According to its website at www.gaif.us, organizers also say “that an international caliber festival in the middle of the summer in central New York is a fabulous idea.”
The Irish festival has grown from 6,000 people in 2004 to averaging over 50,000 people visiting each year from local municipalities to around the world.
One of the major attractions of the festival every year is the music, which is broken up into the regional stage, the traditional stage and the contemporary stage.
At the contemporary stage on Saturday, Callanach kept concert goers dancing. One of the band members told the audience that “Callanach” means “loud” so he wanted to hear people shout, with many obliging. Also performing on the contemporary stage were hard-rocking, festival favorites Enter the Haggis and The Elders.
Dozens of vendors from across the United States and Ireland made up the shoppes. Also returning were festival favorites including the 5K run, bagpipe competition and an Irish Mass, which was scheduled for Sunday.
The Irish Cultural Building featured many opportunities for people to learn more about Irish heritage, including the poetry of the elders, Irish cooking, and a bagpipe workshop. Also in the Irish cooking section, samples of potato turnip au gratin were made for visitors to try along with Irish soda bread.
Chris Abdoo, of Deerfield, watched over her great-nephew Desmond while his mother performed with the Blarney Rebel Band. Abdoo said going to the festival is a family affair.
Page 2 of 2 - “The whole weekend is so much fun,” she said.