Irish culture brings out crowds
The Cape Coral Irish American Club is calling its 6th Annual Irish Festival a huge success, “full of the luck of the Irish.”
Nearly 8,000 people attended the weekend event, held March 6-7 in the Bavarian Gardens at the German-American Social Club, to enjoy the Irish culture, food and music. That is a 35 percent increase over last year’s festival, said club member Anne Carney.
“They had all kinds of kids there in little kilts, boys and girls,” she said.
“You get to participate,” she added about what makes the event unique. “You’re not just an audience member.”
According to Carney, one highlight of the festival was the volunteers.
“We’re got an army of volunteers that are incredible, and they went and got support in the community in a really difficult time,” she said.
The club increased its event program from 32 pages to 48 pages this year. Also, the number of vendors more than doubled this year with more than 30 signing up for the festival.
“(The volunteers) got the ads that allowed us to afford the entertainment that we had,” Carney said.
Multiple acts performed over the weekend.
The entertainers were Cahal Dunne, of Cork, Ireland; Kathy and Andreas Durkin, of Donegal, Ireland; Sean Fleming; West of Galway Band; Tommy Barr; Brian Bonner; Jim McCarthy and Dave Buescher; and Harry Boyle.
The Lee County Pipes & Drums band also performed, as well as the Kellyn Celtic Arts Irish Dance Academy, of Fort Myers and Naples; the Tir Na Nog Irish Dancers, of Naples; and the Irish Dance Academy of Sarasota.
Carney said that most of the performers want to come back next year.
Another highlight was the cooperation between the Cape Coral Irish American Club and the German-American Social Club in putting on the festival, she said.
“One is an Irish club and one is a German club, and we had a very good collaboration between the clubs to blend the strengths,” Carney said.
The windy afternoons and cooler evenings were never a problem.
“We we’re actually thinking the weather was really good,” she said. “Ninety-five percent of the weather was really sunny. People were sitting in the sun.”
Raffle tickets were sold for a trip for two to Ireland including airfare, accommodations at B&B’s and a car rental. Seasonal residents Ray and Sharon Kelly, of Trenton, Mich., won. The club did have to secure the trip through another travel company after the initial one went out of business.
“It’s just a sad sign of our times,” Carney said, adding that that was the only surprise over the weekend.
According to Carney, club members made note during the festival of what they thought could be improved on for next year’s event. One idea brought up was the expansion of the free children’s arts and crafts area, she said.
“That’s where we define ourself as a family festival,” Carney said.
But, overall, no major changes are planned for next year’s event.
“The attitude is fairly positive,” she said. “We’ll just build on what’s good.”
Proceeds from the festival will benefit the scholarship fund along with local charities, including the Southwest Florida Organ Transplant Recipients, Hope Hospice, Cape Coral Caring Center, ALS Association, the Elks Lodge Fund for U.S. Soldiers, Cape Coral Special Populations and Candlelighters of Southwest Florida.