Annual Cape Irish Festival this weekend
By TIFFANY REPECKI
The 11th Annual Cape Coral Irish Festival will feature some of the best Celtic music in the area.
Hosted by the Cape Coral Irish American Club, the event will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Sun Splash Family Waterpark. The festival will feature live performances by several groups, vendors selling crafts and wares, and authentic Irish food and drink.
Joe Cobb, festival chairman, explained that the goal is to raise awareness of the Irish culture.
“To remind people of the Irish culture – to kind of share the entertainment and culture,” he said.
Last year, an estimated 9,000 people turned out over the two days.
“We hoping for more,” Cobb said of this year’s attendance. “We’re hoping for 11,000 to 12,000.”
“It depends on the weather,” he added.
It is the first year that the event will be held at Sun Splash. The festival was originally hosted at the Cultural Park Theatre, then moved to the grounds of the German American Social Club of Cape Coral.
“It became a lot more successful there,” Cobb said.
He explained that the club hopes to draw an even bigger crowd with the move to Sun Splash.
“Now we’re more centrally located in Cape Coral,” Cobb said.
Admission to the festival is $6 for adults; children age 12 and under are free.
“We also have a Leprechaun Lane,” he said.
Designed for children ages 3-12, the activity area features crafts, face painting and more.
“And we have some games for them to play,” Cobb said.
Leprechaun Lane is free of charge.
On Saturday, the live entertainment will kick off with Brendan Nolan, of the Tampa Bay area, and Emily Ann Thompson, from Indianapolis, Indiana. Also scheduled to perform are the Lee County Pipes & Drums and the Kellyn Celtic Arts Irish Dance Academy, which are located in Southwest Florida.
A Roman Catholic Mass will kick off Sunday’s schedule from 11 a.m. to noon. The Mass will be conducted by an associate of the Saint Katharine Drexel Church and is open to the public.
The Irish Dance Academy of Sarasota and the Flanagan-O’Hare School of Irish Dance will perform.
On Saturday and Sunday, the headlining acts will include: West of Galway, of Southwest Florida; Rathskeltair, out of Jacksonville; Albannach, a Celtic rock band; and the Screaming Orphans.
“We’ve had the Screaming Orphans for five or six years,” Cobb said.
On both days, dance instruction will also be available from 1 to 5 p.m. for free.
“We offer ceili dancing, which we call traditional dancing,” he said.
This year, organizers have expanded the number of food and craft vendors. There will be a main food tent serving up corned beef and cabbage dinners, corned beef sandwiches, shepherd’s pie and more.
“Those are traditional Irish meals,” Cobb said.
A mix of other food vendors will be selling everything from sausages, to carmel corn.
There will also be more than 60 crafts and wares vendors.
“We’re just trying to give an assortment of things for the citizens to come out and enjoy,” he said.
Over the weekend, the Cape Coral Irish American Club will sell raffle tickets for a seven-day trip for two to Ireland. Valued at $2,500, it includes airfare, a rental car and a stay at a bed-and-breakfast.
“We let you arrange your time and place of the trip with our travel agent,” Cobb said.
Tickets cost $5 each, and the drawing will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
“You do not have to be present to win,” he said.
The festival serves as a fundraiser for the club, which sponsors scholarships for people who are expanding on their Irish culture. The club also donates to local charities, like Special Populations.
“We try to give back to the community,” Cobb said.
Festival organizers encouraged the public to stop by this weekend.
“We just want people to come out and have a good experience,” he said.
Attendees are welcome to bring chairs; coolers, animals and outside food are not permitted.
For more information on the Cape Coral Irish Festival, visit: capecoralirishfest.com.
Sun Splash Family Waterpark is at 400 Santa Barbara Blvd.