Monday, 31 August 2009

Erin Feis draws more than just the Irish


By STEPHANIE GOMES (sgomes@pjstar.com)
Journal Star

Why are so many drawn to Irish culture whether or not they are natives of the country? Third-generation Irish Sean Sullivan of Brimfield offered his answer: "The Irish are just good people. It's like camaraderie. Everybody enjoys each other's company."

When asked about the beer, he replied, "Well, that's a given. Nothing like Irish music and a Guinness."

The bagpipes blowing at the entrance of Festival Park on Friday signaled the first day of the annual Irish festival Erin Feis, which is sponsored by the St. Patrick Society of Peoria and the Peoria Park District. The first day of the event, called "The Gathering," featured music, food and drink vendors and cultural exhibits.

The event continues Saturday and Sunday with dozens of music and dance performances scheduled.

"It's a family-oriented activity," said event co-chairman John Martin, "It gives people the opportunity to see and learn about the Irish."

The event was first held in 1981 at Hickory Grove Park and was moved to Festival Park in 1996. Now a three-day event, it has grown to include six performance stages.

This year, a special stage reserved only for Irish dance is set up for Saturday's event, called "The Day," and will feature many dance groups such as Isle of Erin, Central Illinois Irish and Flynn's School of Irish Dance.

"The entertainment is always the primary draw," Martin said. "There's an endless amount of Irish entertainment."

Local Irish band Bogside Zukes kicked off the music stage under O'Neill's Irish Pub's tent at 5:15 p.m.

Dancing her own Irish jig outside the tent was 2-year-old Lily Tejero of Peoria.

"Lily likes Irish music," said her mom, Meghan Tejero. "So we came down to dance."

Tejero, who's Irish, said she used to Irish dance when she was younger, and said she makes it out to the event each year.

"They have stuff for everybody to do," she said. "There are some really good vendors."

Along with the music and dance, visitors can take a walk through the "Cultural Village," which includes Irish vendors, bakers and cultural demonstrations.

Saturday and Sunday also include various Irish games of strength, such as throwing bails of hay, Martin said.

"I think the Irish have a knack for turning disaster into something humorous," Martin said. "They have a sunny disposition about looking at life."

Sunday's event, named "The Scattering," will host two worship services: one Catholic service and one Celtic Vesper service. Both services will begin at 10:30 a.m., and those who bring in a can of food for donation will get into "The Scattering" for free, Martin said.

Stephanie Gomes can be reached at 686-3194 or sgomes@pjstar.com.

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