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Irish Festival: Two days of music, dancing, drinks start Saturday

By Staff | Feb 28, 2019

A homage to Irish and Celtic culture will take place this weekend, as the Bavarian Gardens attempt to transform into a legendary “Fiddler’s Green”-a place filled with perpetual joy in folklore tales of old-where there’s a fiddle that never stops playing and dancers who never tire.

The Cape Coral Irish Festival spans two days of music, dancing, drinks and more.

The 15th annual event is put on by the Cape Coral Irish American Club and runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday at the German American Social Club in Cape Coral.

“The festival is always in a great location, with great authentic Irish food and beer,” said festival chairman Jim Gillespie.

This year’s musical line-up is stacked, which includes: “Screaming Orphans, the four funny, high spirited, musically talented sisters from County Donegal; Derek Warfield & the Young Wolfe Tones who deliver Ireland’s traditional music and folk songs with an energy and skill that shows the quality of contemporaries within that tradition; Albannach, which is Gaelic for ‘Scottish,” provides primal drumming and piping which stirs the soul of all who hear them; Rathkeltair – returning to the main stage from Jacksonville Beach; Jamison Celtic Rock has grown to offer one of the most high energy shows on the east coast, with dynamic Irish reels mixed into rock. Also, local favorites West of Galway and returning Dubliner, Brendan Nolan, whose rich voice and Irish way with words helps listeners feel the pain, the joy, the humor, the triumph, the sadness, the longing, as deeply as they were expressed in the old songs of the Irish tradition. Brendan will also sing the Irish National Anthem in (Gaelic) at the Opening Ceremony on Saturday,” states a press release for the festival.

A crowd favorite, the Screaming Orphans, are looking forward to coming back to the area that they said really gave them great support when they started independently in the states.

“We’ve played this festival quite a few times, and we’re delighted to be back again this year. It’s always a great time,” said Screaming Orphans guitarist/vocalist Grainne Diver. “This is our home away from home.”

This quartet of talent began playing music together at a young age, and took influences from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, The Pixies, Simon & Garfunkel, Abba and Counting Crows.

Diver describes their sound as a mix of old school and modern Irish tones-a hybrid, if you will, between traditional and pop.

“We were brought up with traditional Irish music,” said Diver. “We always had a love of pop music as well. We’ve taken songs and changed them around and put a bit of a Celtic flare on it. We write our own music as well. We’re a great mix of traditional Irish, Irish pop and just pop in general.”

For those who have not seen the Screaming Orphans live, Diver said you can expect to feel a range of emotions that will tug at the heartstrings as well and make you want to tap your feet and dance.

“It’s great to play a range of music,” she said. “From slow, to fast, and sad to happy-there’s something for everyone. From kids to grandparents, we’re generational.”

The bond these four sisters have shared is quite special, as their experiences all tie together as one. The age gap from the oldest to youngest is six years and they took off independently when the average age of the girls was around 15.

“It’s unusual for people to last as long as we have together,” said Diver. “We love music. It’s extremely handy to be able to experience this ride together, sharing our emotions and turning it into ideas. It’s great for our songwriting process. We developed a sound together. It’s also fun getting to travel together.”

If one of the sisters were to decide she wanted to branch out or no longer be involved for whatever reason, the group would be no more, said Diver. It takes all four, not just one or two, to make the group what it is.

From touring with Sinead O’Connor, to being young go-getters in the scary world of music, to becoming a mainstay at Celtic events across the Globe, the Screaming Orphans are sure to deliver the traditional Irish sound of the Emerald Isle.

Lee County Pipes & Drums will also be in attendance, a group that “exudes a feeling of family, friendship and honor for our heritage and the history surrounding piping, drumming and Celtic music.”

“We have a very strong list of musicians this year,” said Gillespie. “We’re in good shape.”

For those who love traditional Irish dance, the returning Kellyn Celtic Arts Irish Dance Academy, “with their quick and precise steps, unique costumes and love for Irish dance” will be performing all weekend.

If one wants to attempt the intricate Irish dance-style, while having a blast in the process, can visit the Ceili Tent of folk dance-where dancers demonstrate and teach you traditional Irish dancing to the accompaniment of Brain Bonner, ballad singer and accordionist with roots in Donegal.

“People love it,” said Gillespie of the make-shift dance classes. “People want to learn.”

You can’t have an Irish festival without beer, and not to worry, the Cape Coral Irish Festival has traditional Irish brew in abundance.

Guinness, Harp and Smithwicks beer will all be available for those who wish to wet their whistle.

In terms of authentic Irish delectables, a myriad of entrees and cuisines from the Emerald Isle will be available to enjoy.

Dishes include shepherd’s pie, corned beef/hash and cabbage, bangers & colcannon, loaded potatoes, coddle, bread pudding with Irish cream and more.

“The festival is for families, couples, friends-anyone,” said Gillespie.

A focus of the event this year is to try and pander to all demographics, he said.

“We’re paying attention to all audiences,” Gillespie said. “It’s important that everyone has a good time.”

For the younger crowd, Gillespie said that they can come enjoy some of the music and festival atmosphere during the evening, while still having the remainder of the night to enjoy themselves.

“It’s sort of a pre-St. Patty’s Day party,” he said. “We’re all preparing for the day where everyone’s Irish.”

Leprechaun Lane, which includes a children’s tent will also be featured for kids ages 3-12 “where there’s action galore.” Activities will include free face painting, supervised games and arts & crafts.

Plenty of prize opportunities are available, including a vacation to Ireland.

The trip includes airfare for two from New York to Shannon or Dublin, plus a bed and breakfast and rental car for a week-the winner chooses when to go.

A 50/50 raffle will also be held each day.

Admission is $10 for adults, and children under 12 are free. Parking is free.

Pets and coolers are not allowed.

Sunday morning the festival starts off with an outdoor Roman Catholic Mass at 10 a.m.

“Come celebrate, party and have a good time,” said Gillespie.

German American Social Club is at 2101 SW Pine Island Road in Cape Coral.

For more information and band line-ups, visit www.capecoralirishfest.com.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj