LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – The 15th annual Irishfest is happening very soon.
In fact, the Irishfest website is counting down the hours, minutes and seconds. Irishfest starts Friday, Aug. 9 and run through Sunday, Aug. 11.
The Irishfest board president Pat Stephens said that he and his board of directors never imagined they’d reach this kind of goal. Celebrating 15 years seemed like something that would never happen.
“I think what seems like a good idea in concept when you’re sitting around a kitchen table, you just never know if the rest of the community or the public is going to buy into that,” Sponsorship Chair Kelley Bahr said. “The fact that we’ve been able to bring Irish music and Irish food and Irish dancing and all of these Irish cultural things to the community, and people still come back year after year, thousands of people come through our gates, and it just gives you a good feeling to knowing that we can continue to bring this to the community.”
The community can enjoy some of the same things as last year’s Irishfest. The board said their goal each year is to provide the community with an authentic Irish experience. There are several activities that the community can get involved in. One of the most unique activities the board is offering this year is the opportunity to trace your genealogy and find out if you’re Irish. Volunteers will have a station set up for people to visit and find out their roots. The board has connected with Ancestry for the weekend in order to do this activity.
Stephens said there will be much more to look forward to, including a fiddle contest, a kilt run, a harp-playing contest, a potato eating contest, and an Irish language workshop. There will also be Irish inspired entertainment, authentic Irish live music, food, and beverages. The board will also be raffling off a few grand prizes. The first prize winner receives a trip to Ireland, which is a $2500 value. The second prize winner will receive a pair of 2019 Packers tickets and a hotel stay. The third prize winner will receive a handmade Irish quilt and the fourth prize winner will receive a 2020 Irishfest weekend VIP package.
“Each day is unique in what it offers. And so obviously being an outdoor festival, we’re very weather dependent, but at the same time we kind of pride ourselves in letting people know that we’re the only covered Irish Festival in the Midwest. So all of our events take place under tents. So even if it’s raining, people can still come and stay dry.”
You don’t have to be Irish to attend. Bahr says that everyone who walks through the gate the weekend of August 9th is Irish and should embrace the culture. Irishfest takes place on the Oktoberfest grounds, behind Riverside Park.
Irishfest mascot Clancy O’Coulee will even be attending the festival all weekend.
The Irishfest Board of Directors urges the community to check their website for more information and a list of detailed events.