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The Times
  • Great American Irish Festival is this weekend

  • Workers and volunteers for the 6th Annual Great American Irish Festival busied themselves with set-up Wednesday afternoon as the start of the three-day event neared.

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  • Workers and volunteers for the 6th Annual Great American Irish Festival busied themselves with set-up Wednesday afternoon as the start of the three-day event neared.
    Kevin Dowling, the festival’s assistant director, said things were going well.
    “The weather is cooperating,” he said, while standing under sunny skies by the pavilion that will be known as the Shoppes of Emerald Isle during the festival. “I hope it will stay that way for the weekend.”
    Matt Sullivan, the festival’s director, said nearly 800 people have signed up to volunteer throughout the festival. Some were already on-hand to help with Wednesday’s set-up, that included propping up vendor tents and setting up the stages for the musical performances.
    This is the sixth year for the annual festival, held at the Herkimer County Fairgrounds in Frankfort. The festival started off as a one-day event that drew nearly 6,000 people in 2004. Last year, the festival saw over 50,000 people come through its gates over the three-day weekend.
    “We intended for the festival to be this big, but you never know ... This is what we hoped for,” said Sullivan. “It’s a top quality Irish festival. It’s quickly grown into one of the country’s top ten festivals in seven years.”
    Sullivan said music is the main attraction for the festival. The performances will be split up into three stages — contemporary, traditional and regional — and can be heard throughout the weekend. Local performers will include The Blarney Rebel Band, Pat Kane and Rory’s Ghost from Frankfort.
    Sullivan also said though music is the centerpiece that “there is something for everyone.”
    The cultural building, located to the left when entering the fairgrounds, will include Irish dance and music lessons, cooking demonstrations and a genealogy workshop. The festival’s Web site has a complete list of events for the cultural building, whose theme this year is “What is this thing ... we call Irish?”
    “There’s lots of things to do and see going on throughout the weekend,” said Deni Frederick, coordinator for the cultural building.
    For those looking for something more athletic, games will be played throughout the weekend for men’s and women’s rugby and Gaelic football. A 5K run that will start and end at the fairgrounds will also be held Saturday. Sign-ups can be done online. Admission to the sporting events is included with the festival admission.
    At 10:30 a.m. Sunday, an Irish Mass will be held which has been called “hugely successful” by organizers. It will include a Gaelic greeting offered by Thomas Malley and The Lord’s Prayer spoken in Gaelic by Deirdre McCarthy. Music will be performed by Pat Kane.
    Tickets are available for purchase now online. Entry for the festival throughout the whole weekend is $25. For Friday and Sunday, the cost is $10. On Saturday, the cost is $12. Proceeds will be used to help establish an Irish Cultural Center in the Mohawk Valley on the site of the former St. Patrick’s Church at the corner of Columbia and Varick Streets in Utica.
    Page 2 of 2 - The festival’s Web site can be found at www.gaif.us.
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