Our Irish eyes were smiling (and our Scottish toes were tapping)

I didn’t realize Appleton had its very own leprechaun until I treated myself to a whole Saturday (and most of a Friday) at its second annual Irish Fest.

What but Irish magic (and a slew of volunteers’ incredibly hard work) could account for to toe-tapping, tummy-patting, pint-tipping, arm-waving, hand-clapping explosion of joy that happened all weekend at Jones Park.

McGuinness Irish Pub owner Matt Miller himself summoned some of the best pipers and fiddlers in all the land for a community festival and, by land and sea, they came with a contagious spirit of celebration that culminated in an all-out party Saturday night.

At one point, the eight members of Scottish-based Skerryvore joined the five members of Gaelic Storm on stage for a ceilidh featuring three bag pipes and some of the best fiddling we’ve ever heard.

My jigging muscles are sore just from stomping along.

And the food, well it was positively grand (and extremely filling). I had the shepherd’s pie Friday night and I agreed with everyone who said it was way too much for one person too eat. I agreed sincerely and then I looked down and realized I’d eaten it all.

Saturday night, I ordered it again so you can see why I’d be extra glad for all that dancing and the opportunity to work it off in such a happy way.

I went all-in on the Irish mischief this year, but I covered my spiritual bases as well with a preemptive visit to Saturday afternoon’s Celtic mass. The inside cover of Father Bill’s mass bulletin featured a Celtic cross with the words, “May God look down and bless you. May you look up and give thanks.”

So, I did.

Thank you, too, to all of the organizers, volunteers, cooks, bar tenders, musicians, dancers and board members who worked together to make the second annual Irish Fest even more magical than the first.

I can’t wait for the third!

Saturday night at Jones Park was a foot-stomping festival of joy. (Honestly, my foot stomped all weekend.)
I started out Friday night with a nice, sweaty camera lens and these two descendents of Bridget Kennedy, my husband Vince and his sister Donna.
We brought the little guys with us on Saturday and, I have to say, Jones Park is set up perfectly for family music festivals. You can hear the music while the little ones play on the playground equipment and, if you want to move closer to, say, watch some delightful Irish dancing, Jones Park has provided a cool, muddy hill for little people to play on while the adults with them enjoy the show. It’s a win/win/a little extra soap in the bathtub situation.
Our friend Tim Higgins is one of the Irish Fest board members and an all-around amazing community member. He is the cheerful, capable, reliable force behind many area events and I am very happy to take this opportunity to say Thank You to him.
I am also really grateful for the opportunity to thank this bundle of energy, kindness and cooking skill! Amanda and her husband Mark are driving forces behind the festival and they and their family run and supply that Irish food tent like a well-oiled (and perfectly seasoned) machine.
Always happy to listen to live music with my sister Kathy.
And, as for the music, well, it was grand. This is Gaelic Storm with their new and extremely talented fiddler Natalya Kay (who looks just like my niece Lizzie, which means she’s quite beautiful).
At one point both Friday and Saturday night bag piper Peter Purvis and fiddle player Natalya Kay played their way right into the audience.
Skerryvore fiddler player Craig Espie celebrated his birthday Saturday night.
Bagpiper and whistle player Scott Wood played at least seven different instruments during Skerryvore’s set. That’s founding member Daniel Gillespie on the acoordion, and Alan Scobie on keyboards.
It was a Wisconsin festival, so, of course, there were free cheese samples.
More music and more cheese.
Such a privilege to hear them play! They said their appearance at last year’s Appleton Irsh Fest was their first post-covid show and they came all the way from Scotland to play it. Lucky us!
Here’s a snippet of the magic that happened when Skerryvore joined Gaelic Storm at Irish Fest in Appleton.

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