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Luck of the Irish brings thousands to Cape festival

By Staff | Mar 8, 2009

Anyone who didn’t know about the 5th Annual Irish American Festival and drove past the Bavarian Gardens this weekend may have found themselves confused.
The usual lederhosen and German brews frothing over the sides of mugs to the sounds of polka were nowhere to be seen.
However, there was no shortage of green shirts and hats, good cheers and traditional Irish music, dance and cuisine.
The German American Club, where the Bavarian Gardens are located, allowed the Irish American Club to host the 5th year of their all-things-Irish celebration at the expansive outdoor locale. This year’s event appeared to have successfully proven there’s a little Irish in everyone, Cape Coral not being the exception.
“We were expecting a great turnout, and it’s very good,” event chair Bud Martin said Saturday, day one of the weekend-long festival. “Hopefully it continues like this. It’s going to surpass our goal.”
The Irish American Club predicted about 4,000 people would enjoy the area’s Irish heritage over the two-day period, Martin said. About 3,100 people came on Saturday alone.
In addition to feasting on Irish foods, watching live bands and sharing a drink with friends and countrymen, the Irish American Club offered Irish descendants the opportunity to join the club. By Saturday afternoon, twelve new members had already signed up.
“We want to continue to promote Irish culture in Southwest Florida,” Martin said.
In previous years, the festival was held at Cultural Park and saw somewhere around half the turnout expected for this year’s event.
Martin tributes the German American Club for working closely with the Irish American Club, helping bring the event to fruition on their grounds.
“We’ve had wonderful working relationships with the German American Club over the past eight months,” Martin said.
The festival attracted everyone from those merely looking to enjoy the food and song to those of strong Irish blood.
Steven Cook, who came out to share in the festivities with wife Karla, is the latter.
A second-generation Irish American, Cook is a direct descendant of explorer, navigator and cartographer Captain James Cook.
Born and raised in the United States, Cook has spend 17 years in the Cape. This was his first year at the Irish American Festival.
“I never knew they had an Irish festival for five years,” Cook said.
Cook met Karla in Nicaragua during his time in the military. Dressed in festively green attire, they enjoyed the food, drink and music together.
“That’s the point, isn’t it?” Cook said.
The Bavarian Gardens saw a number of Irish music groups take the stage Saturday and Sunday, including Kathy and Andreas Durkin, Tommy Barr, the West of Galway Band, Noel Kingston and 12-year-old dancer Delaney O’Shea.
A percentage of the proceeds raised from the event will benefit the Mahigan Scholarship fund for dancers, Boy Scouts of America and other charitable causes.