16th annual Irish Festival attracts a large crowd
St. Patrick’s Day is not the only day of the year for the Irish to celebrate their heritage.
Several thousand came to the German American Social Club grounds this past weekend to get a jump on things before the big day for the 16th annual Irish Festival, one of the biggest such events in Southwest Florida.
People drank beer, ate Irish food, listened to Irish music and saw Irish dancers, while wearing green or anything that can pass as Irish on a weekend close to the holiday.
The event is put on by the Cape Coral Irish American Club, which has seen it grow and prosper every year it’s been held.
“This emphasizes three main parts of the Irish culture, music, dance and the food. We give people a chance to be Irish for a day,” said Jim Gillespie, festival chairman. “St. Patrick’s Day is used by every venue and it would be difficult to hire people because they can work anywhere.”
People got to enjoy Irish music in all shapes and forms. Nine bands performed on two stages. Also present was the Lee County Pipe and Drum Corps, and dancers from Kellyn Celtic Dance, who showed off their Riverdance-style footwork throughout the weekend.
Kimberly Knaub, who ran the dance club with her daughter, Jaime, said they have been there since the beginning, making it one of the big events of the year.
“We look forward to everyone getting their Irish on, whether they are of Irish heritage or not,” Kimberly said. “This is like our Christmas and we really want to meet people, especially new ones who aren’t aware what this all means.”
“Being Irish is something people lie to claim this time of year. Being Irish might just be in your heart, not just in the blood,” Jaime said. “We like to share our culture through dance, so we’re teaching, performing and helping people have a good time.”
People gave the event rave reviews. Sharon Morgan of Fort Myers called herself “wanna-be” Irish and came dressed in green with a leprechaun hat.
“There are two kinds of Irish, those who are and those who wish they were,” Morgan said as she did some vendor shopping.
Al and Jean Manning, snowbirds from Newfoundland, have attended the festival for six years with their friends. This year they came both days.
“Brian Bonner is an accordionist we like to see every year and we like his music. We like to dance and waltz and polka,” Al said. “We’re really looking forward to tomorrow when the Byrne Brothers are here. We’re going to go to the Shell Factory for St. Patrick’s Day and anywhere else they may have it.”