Irish Fair of Minnesota

St. Paul is a city famous for its Irish heritage, with about 12 percent of residents claiming roots in Ireland, it’s no surprise that it’s the location of the largest free celebration of Irish heritage in the Upper Midwest.  The three-day Irish Fair of Minnesota, now in its 30th year, opens this Friday on Harriet Island in St. Paul.  This event attracts well beyond the "heritage circle," though, as last year it drew an estimated 100,000 people, about 35 percent of whom have no Irish blood at all.

The weekend is a celebration of all aspects of Irish culture.  It show a reverence for Irish immigrant settlers in Minnesota and at the same time, it recognizes the impact immigrants are making today.  Additionally, the Irish Fair Legacy Fund awards grants to Irish cultural groups and non-Irish immigrant groups in Twin Cities communities and beyond.  For example, money has gone to Irish music youth workshops, English learning classes for new Americans, and sewing skills for Somali women.

The festival will have music, sporting events, dancing and workshops on Gaelic language, genealogy, Irish instruments and crafts. Boxing exhibitions, popular at past festivals, will continue through the weekend with scrappy Irish boxers in 1920s-style attire. The fair also will feature its second Idol Contest, with competing music or dance acts that are Irish or Celtic in nature.

About 50 vendors, 15 artisans and a dozen community organizations will sell products or set up exhibits at the Saint Paul community event.

Musical headliners this year include: Flogging Molly, a band that plays traditional Irish music spiked with punk rock; the Elders, a Celtic rock band from Kansas City; The Tannahill Weavers, a Scottish band that performs a mix of rich ballads and foot-stomping jigs and reels; the Fuchsia Band from County Cork in Ireland; Scythian, led by two fiddlers, and Stephen's Green, a Dublin duo that entertains with traditional Irish tunes and humor. Also performing will be Minnesota's own Wild Colonial Bhoys, a pub band; Belfast Cowboys, a Van Morrison cover band, and Romantica, an Irish Americana pop band led by Belfast native Ben Kyle.

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