Irish Festival Steps It Up

Celebration moves to fairgrounds and adds Gaelic football and hurling

November 09, 2006|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun Reporter

With a larger new location and more cultural events, Irish Festival organizers are hoping to lure nearly twice as many people as last year.

The volunteer-run festival starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. In the past, the festival was held at the 5th Regiment Armory. Last year, it drew about 10,000 people, said spokesman Harry Bosk.

"I think this venue is going to make it easier for people to park," Bosk said. "It's going to be a bigger and brighter venue. That will be the biggest change that people will see this year."

This year, festival organizers are adding two traditional sports to the roster: Gaelic football and hurling. In hurling, teams compete by trying to smack leather balls with wooden sticks between the opposing team's goal posts. Gaelic football combines elements of soccer and rugby. Both sports will take place on the infield at the fairgrounds Sunday.

Last year, a Men in Kilts 5K race was added to the lineup, which was surprisingly popular, Bosk said. They'll run the race again this weekend.

"People had a lot of fun with that," Bosk said. "I was amazed by the number of men who showed up wearing kilts."

Also on Sunday, there will be a children's red hair and freckles contest. Other children's activities include puppeteers, storytellers and educational exhibits.

More than 14 bands, including Barleyjuice, Donegal X-Press, Billy McComiskey and the Baltimore Ceili Band, Move Like Seamus, Rigadoo, Custom House, Irish Fire and Brendan Pelan will perform. This year's headliner is the David Munnelly Band, led by Munnelly, an accordionist.

The festival will also include Irish dance troupes, bagpipes, Christmas gifts and arts, jewelry and clothing vendors. Area Irish restaurants will offer traditional food, such as cabbage, corned beef and stew.

Bosk said it is the state's biggest annual Irish festival. With the move to the fairgrounds, the attendance will only grow, he said.

"People are very optimistic with this new venue," Bosk said. "They'll have more people coming than they had in the past."

The Irish Festival is 6 p.m.-11 p.m. tomorrow, noon-11 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday at the State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road in Timonium. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 seniors, $5 for kids 12-17 and free for those younger than 12. A three-day pass is $20. For more information, call 410-905-7969 or go to

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