(New Orleans) - Organizations across New Orleans have come together to celebrate all things Irish. The first annual Irish Fest: New Orleans is encouraging attendees to kick off their shoes and join dancers as they jig, stomp and leap to commemorate the contributions of Irish culture to New Orleans on Saturday, November 8 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Kingsley House in the heart of the Irish Channel.
Headlining the fest will be the much-anticipated reunion The Poor Clares, one of New Orleans' best-known Irish bands. The Irish folk group reunites singer Betsy McGovern, mandolin player Patrick O'Flaherty, flutist and multi-instrumentalist Justin Murphy, and bouzouki-playing songstress Beth Patterson.
"New Orleans isn't generally thought of having an Irish history," said Murphy. "But there were a lot of Irish immigrants that came here in the 1800s, and they had huge impact on the city. They were the ones that built the canals, and a lot of the initial infrastructure of the city. In 1840, a quarter of the population was from Ireland, so I think that certainly as the cultural representation of the city, Irish-Fest is important."
Also playing at Irish Fest will be Wild Irish Roots and the New Orleans Strathspey and Reel Society. Festival-goers are encouraged to bring an instrument and join the traditional Irish music "session" and help close-out the festival with a "ceili," a popular form of group folk dancing in Ireland.
"There has been a groundswell of interest in Irish culture over the last few years in New Orleans," said festival organizer and Muggivan School of Irish Dance owner Joni Muggivan. "We hope by providing an opportunity for festival-goers to enjoy the culture, food, and music, they will leave with a deeper understanding of the rich history of the thousands of Irish families who have made New Orleans their home."
Irish Fest: NOLA is part of the 2014 International Irish Famine Commemoration (IFC), a four-day tribute to those who perished or were forced to flee during the Great Irish Famine in the mid-19th century. For more information about the IFC, please visit www.ifnola2014.org.
The proceeds from festival food sales will support Lantern Light. In honor of the International Famine Commemoration, a simple brown button will serve as the ticket to the schedule of festival heritage activities and also is redeemable for discounts at participating Irish pubs in New Orleans. Festival Buttons will be sold in advance only, but tickets will be sold on the day of the festival. Advance tickets (buttons) are $12.00 and tickets purchased at the gate are $15.00.
Irish fest: New Orleans will be held at Kingsley House, 1600 Constance Street in New Orleans. For more information, please visit http://www.irishfestneworleans.com/