Building on up!

Great news today folks!  Construction of the stage has begun.  This year we are using a new company for the stage.  We think it is strange, but for the overhead area they are using a different contract, roofers San Antonio, instead of doing it themselves.  We don’t care, so long as it gets done and it gets done right.

New Stage

Things are really starting to get amped up around here which just fueling our excitement for this festival.  We are super excited for all of the new vendors coming out this year.  In addition to them we have other fresh faces to provide us with music and entertainment for the festival.  Naturally, we have some surprises in store for everyone, and even some super special surprises for our volunteers.

We are also looking to hear your ideas on things you want to see and do.  We have an excellent list from last year, but since we are getting closer we thought we would ask one more time.  Are there any activities you all want?  What kinds of things would you like to have available to keep the kids happy?  We know you parents are going to want to have a good so we want to help with that and provide entertainment for the whole family.  Obviously the kids aren’t going to sit still through some of the music and entertainment.

How about beverages?  We have a few different vendors that will be offering different types of beverages at this point.  We aren’t biased, and to be honest we really don’t care about specific brands or junk like that.  We just want to have the things available that you guys want!

That is for now.  Keep checking back for updates all the way up to the festival  Even after we will post pictures from this year and at some point we will start on the site for next year.

St. Patrick’s Day

Obviously, we all love St. Patrick’s Day.  Why?  Because we get to celebrate by drinking!


Many people like to wake up early in the morning and participate in one of the many running events that take place in major cities around the U.S. on or around St. Patrick’s Day.  The one run that people seem to have the most fun at is the Shamrock Run in Portland, OR.  This run has different distances for different levels of runners.  Only the longest gets a finishers medal though.  However, all runners get a free beer at the end provided by Widmer Brothers Brewing Company!

Shamrock Run


Then of course there are other activities you can do on this wonderful day.  An even more popular activity than a run is called a pup crawl.  People off ages, ok mostly college kids, do pub crawls to celebrate this day and become wildly drunk.


Pub Crawl


In Chicago, IL they used to dye the Chicago River green to celebrate the holiday.  Many places also dye their beer green to serve to patrons.  Many claim it changes the taste of the beer, but lets be honest – they aren’t paying for the taste!


Green River


All of this to celebrate the Patron Saint of Ireland – St. Patrick.  St. Patrick is celebrated on March 17th every year.  Why March 17th?  March 17th is thought to be the day that St. Patrick died.


Who was St. Patrick?  St. Patrick was a missionary in Ireland during the later half of the 5th century.  Later in his life he actually became an ordained Bishop.  Unfortunately for us, very little is know about what he did during his time as a Bishop.  All we really know is that he was so well known around Ireland that the people gave him the name the Patron Saint of Ireland.


Here is a picture the Patron Saint of Ireland – St. Patrick.


St Patrick


Hey everyone!  This year’s festival is already shaping up to be one of the best yet.  Every year we continue to grow bigger and bigger.  Before you know it we are going to have a whole section dedicated just for Porta-potties so you all have somewhere to pee.  Haha.


One of the results of this years El Nino has been crazy weather patterns all over the United States.  For example, in San Diego right now there are seeing record high temperatures for this time of year.  In the Northeast there is record low temperatures for this time of year.  Very strange to say the least.  Why are we telling you all of this?  Well, we want you to be prepared.


The farmers almanac, that helps predict what the weather is going to be during certain months of future years, is telling us that this summer is going to be much hotter than usual.  Granted, with El Nino it could be the exact opposite of this.  However, we are going to go with it is going to be HOT!  This means that we will have our first aid tent out and volunteers in full force.  It also means that you need to come prepared for the heat.  How do you prepare for the heat?  Let us give you some tips.


Tips for staying cool in warm weather:

  • wear light colored clothing – we also prefer to wear clothing with UV protection embedded in it
  • wear light weight, moisture wicking clothing
  • carry a water bottle with you at all times
  • DRINK!  When you are thirsty it means that you are already dehydrated
  • Avoid alcohol – alcohol dehydrates you
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Wear a hat
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection
  • Seek shade whenever possible


For those of you driving and parking at our festival you also need to be concerned about your vehicle.  There are two things we recommend you do in order to prepare you car for the hot weather.  The first is to bring your car to a specialist who can install car window tint for you.  The second is to use one of those reflective windshield shades.  The combination of these two will help keep your car as cool as possible, and it will save your interior from wear and tear.

All About Ireland

The Republic of Ireland occupies five-sixths of the island of Ireland, the second largest island of the British Isles.  Irish is the common term of reference for the country’s citizens, its national culture, and its national language.  While Irish culture is relatively simple when compared to other countries states, Irish people recognize both minor and some significant cultural distinctions that are specific to the country.  In 1922 Ireland, which until then had been part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, was politically divided into the Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland, which continued as part of the renamed United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  Northern Ireland occupies the remaining sixth of the island.  Almost 80 years of separation have resulted in differing patterns of national cultural development between these two neighbors, as seen in language and dialect, religion, government and politics, sports, music, and business culture.  Nevertheless, the largest minority population in Northern Ireland (approximately 42 percent of the total population of 1.66 million) consider themselves to be nationally and ethnically Irish, and they point to the similarities between their national culture and that of the Republic as one reason why they, and Northern Ireland, should be reunited with the Republic, in what would then constitute an all-island nation-state.  The majority population in Northern Ireland, who consider themselves to be nationally British, and who identify with the political communities of Unionism and Loyalism, do not want unification with Ireland, but rather want to maintain their ties to Britain.


Location and Geography: Ireland is in the far west of Europe, in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain. The island is 302 miles long, north to south, and 174 miles at its widest point.  The area of the island is 32,599 square miles, of which the Republic covers 27, 136 square miles.  The Republic has 223 miles of land border, all with the United Kingdom, and 898 miles of coastline.  It is separated from its neighboring island of Great Britain to the east by the Irish Sea, the North Channel, and Saint George’s Channel.  The climate is temperate, modified by the North Atlantic Current.  Ireland has mild winters and cool summers.  Because of the high precipitation, the climate is always humid.  The capital city, Dublin, at the mouth of the River Liffey in central eastern Ireland, on the original site of a Viking settlement, is currently home to almost 40 percent of the Irish population; it served as the capital of Ireland before and during Ireland’s integration with the United Kingdom.



Language: Irish (Gaelic) and English are the two official languages of Ireland.  Irish is a Celtic language.  Irish evolved from the language brought to the island in the Celtic migrations between the sixth and the second century B.C.E. Despite hundreds of years of Norse and Anglo-Norman migration, by the sixteenth century Irish was the spoken tongue for almost all of the population of Ireland.  Nevertheless, in 1835 there were four million Irish speakers in Ireland, a number that was severely reduced in the Great Famine of the late 1840s.  By 1891 there were only 680,000 Irish speakers, but the key role that the Irish language played in the development of Irish nationalism in the nineteenth century, as well as its symbolic importance in the new Irish state of the twentieth century, have not been enough to reverse the process of vernacular language shift from Irish to English. In the 1991 census, in those few areas where Irish remains the language, there were only 56,469 Irish-speakers.  Most primary and secondary school students in Ireland study Irish, however, and it remains an important means of communication in governmental, educational, literary, sports, and cultural circles.

Irish is one of the preeminent symbols of the Irish state and nation, but by the start of the twentieth century English had supplanted Irish as the spoken language, and all but a very few ethnic Irish are fluent in English.  Hiberno-English (the English language spoken in Ireland) has been a strong influence in the evolution of British and Irish literature, poetry, theater, and education since the end of the nineteenth century.  The language has also been an important symbol to the Irish national minority in Northern Ireland, where despite many social and political impediments its use has been slowly increasing since the return of armed conflict there in 1969.

Symbolism: The flag of Ireland has three equal vertical bands of green, white, and orange.  This tricolor is also the symbol of the Irish nation in other countries, most notably in Northern Ireland among the Irish national minority.  Other flags that are meaningful to the Irish include the golden harp on a green background and the Dublin workers’ flag of “The Plough and the Stars.”  The harp is the main symbol on the national coat of arms, and the badge of the Irish state is the shamrock.  Many symbols of Irish national identity derive in part from their association with religion and church.  The shamrock clover is associated with Ireland’s patron Saint Patrick, and with the Holy Trinity of Christian religion.  A Saint Brigid’s cross is often found over the entrance to homes, as are representations of saints and other holy people, as well as portraits of the greatly admired, such as Pope John XXIII and John F. Kennedy.

Green is the color associated worldwide with Irishness, but within Ireland, and especially in Northern Ireland, it is more closely associated with being both Irish and Roman Catholic, whereas orange is the color associated with Protestantism, and more especially with Northern Irish people who support Loyalism to the British crown and continued union with Great Britain. The colors of red, white, and blue, those of the British Union Jack, are often used to mark the territory of Loyalist communities in Northern Ireland, just as orange, white, and green mark Irish Nationalist territory there.  Sports, especially the national ones organized by the Gaelic Athletic Association such as hurling, camogie, and Gaelic football, also serve as central symbols of the nation.

All about our Festival

John O’Brien Sr. founded Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival in an effort to showcase, and thereby preserve the many traditions of Ireland.  Gathering a group of incredibly dedicated volunteers, John realized his vision for a festival.  During the first two day run, that first festival brought in more than 3,000 visitors!
The festival committee met soon after the crowds went home to evaluate and develop the event for the following summer. Their continual dedication has produced one of the premier Irish festivals in the United States.  The growth of the festival is proof of this. In 1985 the event expanded to three days. In 1991, it finally outgrew the small wooded venue used during its first 9 years, and so relocated to The Berea Fairgrounds.  The annual attendance is now over 30,000!


Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival highlights Irish History and Tradition, from the gentle stirrings of the harp, to the boom and pomp of the pipe bands; from the soft hush of our love songs, to the thunder of Celtic dancers and rock bands.  We are incredibly happy that the culture we celebrate boasts such a wealth of tradition, music, literature, and art.  It is this sense of community that the Irish hold so dear.


Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival is a non-profit, annual civic event, benefiting local and national charities.  Attractions include: 24 performers on nine stages, a crap ton of exhibits, and a bunch of kiosks.

Our festival boasts some awesome family activities, including the following:

  • Tir Na nOg Children’s Area
  • Byrne McCaffrey Workshops & Stage
  • Celtic Rock Stage
  • Two outdoor and seven indoor stages
  • 24 Performers, Pipe Bands and Entertainers
  • An Irish Coffee House
  • Award winning Irish plays each day
  • Fresh exhibits each year ~ there is always something new and interesting to learn about Irish culture
  • Over 50 Irish Vendors offering authentic Irish goods, foods and crafts
  • An outdoor Mass on Sunday


As a country, Ireland has produced some of the finest novelists, poets, playwrights and musicians in the world.  Fortunately, a good number of them ended up in United States.  The result?  Some of the most highly acclaimed Irish American artists call Cleveland home.

Like blues, traditional Irish music is a source of inspiration for many of today’s rock and country artists.  Where there is song, there is dance, and there is song in Cleveland.  Long before the public began worshipping Michael Flatley as a foot stomping deity, Irish steppers were in the shadows of popular culture.  The recent revival ignited by Riverdance and Lord of the Dance served only to bring the step form of Gaelic dance to a broader audience.

Given all of the above, it’s no surprise that people from throughout the US and Europe head on in to Cleveland for our festival each year.  Many take advantage of the fun-filled atmosphere and large grounds to hold reunions of family and friends.  Others come for the dancing, the history, or the food, but most of all, people come for the music. Having one of the most incredible rosters of Irish artists assembled anywhere, here is just a sampling of previous festival performers:

  • Tommy Makem: Tommy is often called the “Godfather of Irish Music.” His lifelong commitment to lyricizing the struggles and triumphs of the indomitable Irish has appealed to generations of music lovers, regardless of race or nationality.  Tommy is the author of “Four Green Fields” and many other Irish and folks songs.  It is said that Irish music was born in America when Tommy appeared on the Ed Sullivan show with the Clancy’s.  His sons, Rory, Conor and Shane have maintained the family business, forming the Makem Brothers. Successful in their own right, excitement peaks when they take the stage and perform with their dad.
  • Paddy Reilly: One of the most famous and loved Irish entertainers, Paddy still sells out venues whereever he performs; when Irish gather, hearing Paddy’s “Fields of Athenry” is a joyous inevitability.
  • Joanne Madden: The dynamic and energetic leader of Cherish The Ladies has performed world-wide, before princes and presidents.  Cherish The Ladies is an all female group whose energetic renditions of tradition tunes, and great interaction with their audiences has won them fans from the U.S. to Australia, and everywhere in between.  A festival favorite!
  • Dennis Doyle: This renowned Historian and Harpist has performed at all 17 festivals and is as well known for his knowledge of Irish history and story-telling abilities as he is for playing the Harp itself.  A featured performer at the festival mass as well, Dennis’ performances are both stirring and educational.
  • John Timm: 1993 World Champion Irish Dancer and Teacher, John continues to thrill his audiences with his skill and flair.  He was Flatley before Flatley!  His brilliant dancing is no less impressive than his dedication to passing the tradition to successive generations through his Academy of Irish Dance in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • John Lynch & The Kilfenora Ceili Band: This band has been together for over 110 years! — a family band, continuously refining their craft as new generations of musicians arise to repopulate the stage!  With seven current world champions among the 10 members, they are truly “The Best of the Best,” and to have them on our stage, we are just as truly blessed.
  • Alec DeGabriel & John Delaney of The New Barleycorn: Alec & John reside in Cleveland but are known throughout the world as members of The New Barleycorn, an updated version of The Barleycorn — a world-renowned band of which John was a founding member.  Both Irish born performers are stars in their own right, but when they get together – sparks fly!  We are very lucky and proud to have them call Cleveland home.
  • Paul Baker & Peggy Goonin-Baker of Brigid’s Cross:  Paul and Peggy have been singing and performing all their lives.   A classically trained violinist, Paul was only 8 years old when he first performed with the world renowned Cleveland Orchestra.  He also plays a mean fiddle, and has performed in both rock and Irish bands for many years.  Peggy and Paul were mainstays in Alec & Darby’s Folk before setting off to chart a successful music career of their own.
  • Byrne & Tom McCaffrey: Cleveland’s own, legends Tom and Tom have taught hundreds of Clevelanders how to play and love Irish traditional music. They have also performed all over the U.S. and competed at many Irish Feis (music & dance contests).  Everywhere they go, these Irish born musicians are recognized and thanked by performers everywhere for their contributions to Irish Music and its continued growth here in the U.S.

One element above all, binds the community of the Irish: our religion.  The outdoor Mass held on Sunday morning is a beautiful gathering, where all are welcome to unite in a celebration of thanks. The large number who attend, and the many performers who join in the celebration, exemplify how deeply rooted the Irish are in their faith.

Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival is a wonderful celebration of all things Irish.  We hope you’ve enjoyed reading a bit about the festival, and hope as well that you will join us on the third full weekend in July so that you can experience first-hand all the history, tradition, and entertainments the festival has to offer.