The real St. Patrick's Day at Irish Fest 2000
Truth be told, if it wasn't for the urging of a friend I might have missed it again this year. As it was we didn't get there until about 4 p.m. when the party was in full swing.
I usually say I don't mind Irish music. In fact, I actually like Irish music, but in small doses. Therefore it was surprising I didn't get tired of the constant sounds of Celtic music. That's because of the variety. They have three band areas at the Ballston Spa Fairgrounds. There is the Rock Stage, Traditional Stage and Pub Stage. The appeal of each should be obvious by the name.
There is indeed something for everybody. Early on we sampled local favorite Hair of the Dog at the traditional stage and the Young Dubliners at the rock stage. Needless to say both were excellent. The headliner at the rock stage was Seven Nations (7:50-9 p.m.) and Great Big Sea closed the night (9:30- 11 p.m.) and the festival. Talk about energy. Neither is your mother's Celtic band.
Throughout the day, acts were introduced with the tune of a marching pipe band. You don't have to be Irish to have your hair stand on end or get a tear in your eye when you hear a piper.
John McDermott who wrapped up the traditional stage (7:30- 9 p.m) would bring a tear to any eye. He was as traditional as corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. He charmed the older audience with his stories, jokes, music and personal charm.
In the shed where McDermott performed you could hear Seven Nations rock-Celtic sounds and it re-enforced what I observed throughout the day. Irish Fest has appeal to all ages. They were older folks enjoying themselves, young families with kids were having a great time, as well as were every age and demographic group located between the two.
But aside from the music, fair food and of course the beer tents ( It was so rewarding to be somewhere where Guinness appeared to be outselling Coors 2-1) there was the feeling of being united by a common culture. I usually scoff when in the course of an interview about the festival people would talk about the cultural nature of the event. I take my cynicism back. Not only were there booths supporting Irish culture and kids doing step dance exhibitions in small venues - the people attending embraced the Irish culture. When you talked to someone one of the first questions asked was - "Have you ever been to Ireland?" Since my answer was always "No," I was given a verbal tour that made me want to go there.
If you've ever been dismayed by the behavior of people celebrating St. Patrick's Day you would be proud of the behavior of everyone at Irish Fest 2000. I saw no bad behavior or drunks and I was never made to feel uncomfortable. And with a gathering of about 15,000 people that's rather remarkable. It was a perfect event to bring your kids or your grandmother.
I look forward to going again next year.