The Great American Irish Festival is heading into its 16th year at the end of July and it’s shaping up to be one of the best ones yet. There’s something to do, see, and listen to around every corner, but in this article I’ll focus on the Cultural Building, because for the first time ever, Craobh Dugan is in charge of organizing it.
We gathered a creative and ambitious bunch last winter and we’ve been meeting, emailing, and making things ever since. Here are some of the fun and fascinating things you’ll find in the Cultural Building this year:
The mini museum display boards will return, but even bigger and better this year. We’ve added interesting research about Gaelic sports, Irish poets, Irish tunes and instruments, and Irish people in Mohawk Valley history to the popular topics from last year - notable Irish women, Irish words in the English language, and political cartoons of the 18th and 19th centuries showing the cruel racist attitudes toward the Irish at that time.
A trivia quiz with a prize for the winner.
A photo contest where you can vote for your favorites with a $100 prize for the winner. And if you have a photo to enter, click this link to see the rules and registration form. The deadline is July 22.
A knitting display and hands-on demonstration of Aran and other Irish stitches.
Find out how to say and write your name in the Irish language and wear it proudly on your own name tag, presented by Two Rivers Gaelic League from Albany.
Professional genealogist Cindy Wood will give a talk and also be available for 30-minute appointments to help you with individual genealogical research.
Learn useful words and phrases in Irish at the Pop-up Gaeltacht.
Programs on the Schedule
Experience a bodhrán drum circle (on Friday evening). Drum circles have become a popular way to relax and relieve stress and lots of people have bodhráns as souvenirs from their trips to Ireland. Why not put the two together and create an Irish drum circle? Bring your bodhrán and tipper (or your djembe, cajon, or congas if you like) and join in this special session just for drummers. We’ll talk about the benefits of drumming in general and a little about the bodhrán. Then we’ll enjoy a relaxing bodhrán beat. We’ll have a few spare drums if you need one.
Create your own Celtic masterpiece at the Sip and Paint with Art & Vine (on Saturday afternoon). All art supplies and a drink are included with your $25 ticket. Find out more here.
We’ll be performing our Irish and the Erie program about the history of the Irish workers on the Erie Canal with songs and music. Find out more about this project here.
The traditional GAIF Open Session returns once again. All local and visiting musicians who play instruments usually associated with Irish traditional music are invited to join in the open session. We’ve also invited members of the professional bands to join us if they wish. So who knows? We may have some famous musicians joining in.
Performers in the Cultural Building
Along with all the great bands performing on the Contemporary and Traditional Stages (including Craobh Dugan on the Traditional Stage on Sunday at noon) there's even more music to listen to in the Cultural Building. The Mighty Craic, Deirdre and Jim McCarthy, Gerry Dixon, and Donal O'Shaughnessy.
And...we have a few secret surprises planned too. We’re not saying what they are, but you will be enchanted.
So hop over to the GAIF website for the full Entertainment Schedule, the Cultural Building Schedule and to buy your advance tickets at a discount price. It’s just incredible all the fun that’s packed into that ticket price.
Our musical historical program The Irish and the Erie has taken us to many places around Central New York that we may not have seen otherwise. It’s been fun to explore some of the wonderful museums and libraries in our area and in August we found a beautiful garden that you may want to visit next time you’re anywhere near Waterville.
The Waterville Public Library is in a lovely building built in 2006, and if you walk around behind it in the summer you’ll find a garden full of flowers and benches where you can take in the view over the fields and distant forest.
There’s even an observatory near the garden where the library and the Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society host stargazing events.
We hope you get to check it out sometime.
You know Mike Carroll as our singer, flute, and tin whistle player extraordinaire, but he’s also a surveyor for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He gets to spend many of his work days out in the woods and meadows of Upstate NY measuring and singing.
Well, one day in August he and his assistant Alina, found themselves working along the old Erie Canal near Oriskany. Suddenly, a metal detector Alina was using signaled that an object was under the dirt in a wet area near the boundary. When they investigated, it turned out to be an artifact significant to our new CD and program - The Irish and the Erie.
We all know the song that goes “I had a mule. Her name was Sal. Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal…” Right now you’re probably picturing a mule plodding along the towpath pulling a canal boat, and it’s not surprising that many of them threw a shoe from time to time.
The metal object that Mike and Alina found may have been one of those shoes. Since Alina has a horse, she showed a picture of the rusting shoe to her farrier who said it was the right size and shape to fit a mule’s hoof. There’s no way of carbon dating the shoe. That only works for organic matter. But it was in the right place to fit the story, and we can imagine it was once worn by a mule led by an Irish hoggee along the old Erie Canal.
Many of our newsletter readers and Facebook fans are historians and professors. What do you think of the mule shoe’s history?