We’ve been going to Irish Fest for years for the dogs (all Irish breeds, natch) and the drinks (Guinness, of course); this year, stay for an additional night of dancing. Organizers planned ShamROCKING Thursday — punny emphasis theirs — featuring Seven Nations, The Kreellers and The Fighting Jamesons.
Throughout the weekend, Military Park will feature a variety of Celtic activities, including sheep and duck herding demonstrations — good practice for those Celtic pups. Soak up Irish history in the Family Cultural Area; $5 wristbands allow visitors into the Kids’ Game Area, featuring the Blarney Castle Moonwalk, Limerick Lollipop Tree and other whimsically named Irish carnival games.
Standard faire fare will be accompanied by the city’s blossoming food trucks this year; regular food vendors, including Claddagh Irish Pubs and Ancient Order of Hibernians, will also be on site serving those hungry for the traditional taste of Irish stew, shepherd’s pie and corned beef and cabbage. Of course, revelers will be able to request a pint o’ plain as well — the ubiquitous Guinness — as well as Harp, Smithwick’s, Killian’s and other Irish deochs.
Festival-goers can experience the sport of Celtic kings on Saturday; hurling was officially made the national sport of Ireland in the 1800s, but it has been played for over 3,000 years. Not into sport? Shop in the market, featuring Irish wools and afghans, bags and bodhrans, as well as something called a “green man face.”
A Celtic mass will be held Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on the largest festival stage. Festival admission is free that morning as long as attendees bring three non-perishable food items, which will benefit St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. Items needed most at this time include: canned meats and stews, peanut butter, box dinners and diapers.
But the real centerpiece of the festival is the 23-act lineup of Irish musical acts here — some actually hailing from the Emerald Isle, and some merely inspired by it. You’ll, find a summary of our favorite acts scheduled to grace the stages. Some have made Irish Fest a regular stop for years; some will make their first appearance this weekend.
Friday, 7:45 p.m.; Saturday, 7:30 p.m.,; Sunday, 1:45 p.m.
Don’t let their parodies fool you; as hilarious as they are, Brigid’s Cross are golden in their harmonies. Forever an Indiana favorite, Brigid’s Cross highlight their arrangements with fiddle, bodhran and other means of wowing.
Friday, 6:30 p.m., Saturday, 2:30 p.m., 6:15 p.m.; Sunday, 4:45 p.m.
With a large catalog of their own original songs and even more covers of traditional songs, Ennis brings new flavor to old favorites and ballads. There’s a healthy dose of humor featured alongside the tunes.
Evans and Doherty
Friday 6:15 p.m.; Saturday, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.
For 25 years, Evans and Doherty have been telling old Irish stories in song. They’ve got 10 releases of their own, but appear on many more compilations.
Thursday, 8:45 p.m.; Friday, 9:30 p.m.
Fighting Jamesons are an American Celtic punk band that plays some seriously awesome fightin’ and drinkin’ music. Featuring a multitude of instruments including the standard Irish bagpipes, Fighting Jamesons are a punky take on traditional Irish music.
Friday, 6:45 p.m.; Saturday, 1:30 p.m.,
Perhaps the best-known Indy-Irish gem, Hogeye Navvy blends Celtic and early American music with British and American sea chanteys for a pleasant and lovely sound. They held down a regular night at The Aristocrat — since under construction for fire damage — and they’re currently featuring tracks from their new album, Pirate!, their fourth in a series.
Indianapolis Ceili Band
Saturday, 2:45 p.m., Sunday, Noon,
Traditional Irish dance is found all over the city. Indianapolis Ceili Band are riding high on their newest release, Every Wednesday Night. Ceili is a form of folk dancing not unsimilar to square dancing, tailored to different traditional social events.
Friday, 7 p.m.
Detroit’s The Kreellers break free from genres, blending funk, punk and modern rock together for a powerhouse of a sound. Having won over fans around the world, they have quickly become one of the most sought-after Celtic acts in the country.
Friday, 5:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 6:30 p.m., Sunday, 3 p.m.
Folk singer Ken McGee grew up in Denver, but cut his teeth in pubs in Germany during his time in the Armed Forces. He’s been in Indianapolis for over 16 years, holding a position as artist in residence at the Eiteljorg as well as regularly performing at Irish Fest and a variety of local venues.
Friday, 6 p.m.
Hoosier couple Don and Alberta Lathan have been fascinated with Celtic music for over 15 years. They’re known for playing traditional holiday songs and wedding music. Alberta competed in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil twice in the last decade, one of only four Americans to qualify.
Thursday, 5:30 p.m.; Friday, 9:30 p.m; Saturday, 9:30 p.m.
Touring constantly since 1993, Seven Nations has amassed a massive fan base, to become one of the most sought-after Celtic rock bands of the past two decades. Named for the seven Celtic nations — Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall, the
Isle of Man and Galicia — the group has released 16 albums.
Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 7:45 p.m.
You’ll hear them before you see them. Melding together traditional Irish step dancing with Ottawa Valley tap, StepCrew set the stage alight with their moves.
Friday, 5 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m., 4:15 p.m.; Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
The latest in a line of singers whose lineage of talent goes back over 100 years, Tom Sweeney’s heritage is closely tied with the heritage of ancient Ireland. He brings old Irish tales to new life in song, proving himself a hot commodity for promoters over the last several years.