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Irishfest Returns to the Leach

irishfestBY George Halas

It is often said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

On Saturday, June 11th and Sunday, June 12th, there is an opportunity to make it a two-fer as The 8th Annual Oshkosh Irish Fest returns to The Leach Amphitheater.

The festival has grown in popularity and has been voted “Best Local Festival” five times in the Reader’s Choice Poll conducted by The Oshkosh Northwestern.

“You don’t have to be Irish to have fun. Everyone is welcome,” said Matt Miller, founder and president of Irish Fest. “It’s a great opportunity to try ethnic foods, learn about the culture – we have vendors who sell everything from Irish jewelry to kilts – and listen to some wonderful festive music.”

Oshkosh Irish Fest is a family-friendly event that benefits local charities, to date, over $140,000 has been raised. It features Irish entertainment and activities for the entire family including Irish and Celtic music, Irish dance groups, demonstrations on Irish sports and a variety of cultural information displays.

“We highlight the impact the Irish have had on northeast Wisconsin,” Miller said. “After German, Irish is the second-largest ancestry in the area.”

In addition to two days of fun, the festival contributes to the greater good.

“We are most proud of the number of volunteers involved, the amount of money raised for local charities and what we are giving back to the city,” Miller said. “Restaurants, shops, hotels and pubs all benefit.”

For the wee ones, there is Little Leprechaun Land with inflatables for the kids.

The ever-popular band Gaelic Storm – you may recall them from the movie, “Titantic” – will headline, and are joined during the two days by many other of the “best Irish and Celtic,” live bands and dancers including Leahy’s Luck, Kennedy’s Kitchen, Ian Gould, and more.

The World Champion Trinity Irish Dancers will perform on Saturday before they leave for their tour in Belgium and the Netherlands.
“The Trinity Irish Dancers have won multiple world championships,” Miller said. “They are comparable to the Broadway show, River Dance.”

child_tshirtLocal Oshkosh celebrities will participate in curroch races on the river.

“A curroch is an ancient Celtic wooden boat,” Miller said.

The festival kicks off with a 5K Run/Walk that starts and ends at The Leach.

“It’s a timed run, but it’s also just a fun run as well,” Miller said.

All participants in the 5K Run/Walk – it costs $20 to pre-register and $25 the day of – get a free T-shirt and free admission to the festival.

“If you pre-register at any RunAway Shoe Store, you will also get a free beverage of your choice,” Miller added.

One of the unique features of the festival is provided by The Irish Wolfhound Club.

“All Irish-breed dogs are invited to the festival,” Miller said. “The Irish wolfhounds are on display and are there to pet and play with. They’re pretty impressive. They’re like horses.”

All of the events proceeds go to charity, but Miller notes that “if you pre-register, you can save some money.”

To pre-register for tickets go to any RunAway Shoe Store or get tickets online at: oshkoshirishfest.com.

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