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Irish Festival draws huge weekend crowds

March 4, 2014
Pine Island Eagle

There was much more going on over the weekend than just the Lee County Fair. There was one particular ethnic celebration that had people excited.

The German American Social Club in Cape Coral was transformed into an Irish paradise this past weekend as more than 10,000 people came to the 10th annual Irish Festival for two days of great weather, food, music and dancing.

The fun started at 11 a.m. both days and went well into the night, with activities designed to not only entertain, but also teach people about Irish traditions and customs.

Article Photos

Fort Myers resident John O’Connor is decked out on Saturday at this past weekend’s Irish Festival in Cape Coral. More photos are available online at:

"It's about keeping Irish tradition alive and showing it to the people of Cape Coral and developing our report," said Joe Cobb, event chairman. "Some people from Ireland decided to open a club that showed where we came from and what our ancestors did in a social environment."

Over the 10 years, the event, which started less than two years after the 2003 founding of the club, has grown from a few tents at the Cultural Park, to one of the bigger ethnic celebrations in the city once it moved to the GASC five years ago.

Among the featured performers were the Screaming Orphans, The Dublin City Ramblers, West of Galway and Celtic Stew, as well as the Lee County Pipe & Drums, which performs all over Southwest Florida, particularly this time of year as St. Patrick's Day draws near.

"We're doing the Naples Parade, Fisherman's Village, the Beach Parade and we've done this for five years," said George Cook of the Pipes & Drums, which gave three performances throughout the weekend. "It's perfect; a very good venue and appreciative crowd."

Also on hand were numerous dance studios that gave Riverdance-style exhibitions for the multitudes in colorful traditional Irish costumes.

Jaime Knaub, an instructor at Kellyn Celtic Arts Dance Academy, and her group were getting ready for their big performance of Irish and Scottish dancing.

"Irish dancing is more rigidly structured. It's become a more rigorous art form," Knaub said. "Irish dancing is very big these days because of the rhythm. You hear that beat and you want to dance."

Tir Na Nog Irish Dance Academy danced on Sunday.

For the food lovers, they had traditional favorites like corned beef and cabbage, potato pancakes and shepherd's pie, along with many types of Irish ale.

There were also other activities such as free activities for children like face painting, crafts, dance lessons and a vendor where people could check on their genealogy, Cobb said, as well as clothing and jewelry.

Sunday's activities kicked off with a Roman Catholic Mass, and there were numerous raffles throughout the weekend.

Most of the revelers came in the best green they can find, and came from miles around to attend, some more than once.

"It's perfect. I've been to it a number of years," said Jim Tracy, who winters here from Wisconsin. "The music is great. I'm going to come for church tomorrow and stay a while."

Dee Hayes and her husband, Vick, snowbirds from New Jersey, said this is their seventh year attending.

They said it was the music, people and food that brings her and her husband back.

"The entertainment is great. The Screaming Orphans are terrific and West of Galway is the best," Vick said. "We meet people from all over the place."

"By the end of the day we're best friends and we have a good time," Dee said. "It's nice that you see a lot of families. That's really what it's all about."



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