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Irish Festival: Two-day fest celebrates Celtic culture

By Staff | Mar 5, 2020

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 16th annual event is put on by the Cape Coral Irish American Club and runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. this Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at the German American Social Club in Cape Coral.

“We look forward to this event every year,” said Jim Gillespie, festival chair. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s great that it’s finally here.”

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; 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. The Byrne Brothers, who have recently immigrated to Florida from Donegal, are made up of three sons and their father who are passionate about traditional Irish music. Also, local favorites West of Galway and Celtic Stew will perform.

A crowd favorite, the Screaming Orphans, always look 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, prior to last year’s festival. “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.”

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.”

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.

“We consider most of the performers friends,” Gillespie said. “We’ve known them for quite a while, so it’s like seeing your friends again and watching how they’ve changed and how they’ve grown and how they perform. It’s a good show.”

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.”

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 and even teaching the public.

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.

“The purpose of the festival is to promote the Irish culture,” Gillespie said. “And the three things we always think of is: the music, the Irish history was written in music; two is the Irish dancing and we’re promoting it more this year than in the past; and the third thing is Irish beer. I can tell you I’ve been to many Irish festivals around the country that don’t get Irish beer. It’s kind of a treat to have it down here.”

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

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

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.

“It’s going to be a great family weekend featuring solid Irish entertainment, a good collection of vendors and Irish merchandise,” Gillespie said. “It’s a chance to sit in the park and eat, drink and enjoy the music.”

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

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