Irish Fest to move indoors for some events

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Moving indoors: The Carraig Pub at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest will be available during this year' Irish Fest. | Brett Roseman ~ Sun-Times Media

With an eye on enhancing the guest experience and highlighting Gaelic Park’s rich interior spaces, leaders of the annual Gaelic Park Irish Fest celebration have pushed an additional number of festival events and programs indoors for the May 24-27 celebration of Irish heritage and culture.

During Irish Fest, which will celebrate its 27th year in 2013, the Tara Room will host more than 20 musical acts over the festival’s four days. Guests will also be able to enjoy the covered patio that comes off the Tara Room and runs the length of the building.

The Emerald Room, meanwhile, will serve two roles. From May 21-25, the 400-person capacity room will be the site of the Acting Irish International Theatre Festival, a collection of full-length Irish play performances featuring groups from the U.S., Ireland, and Canada. On May 26 and 27, the fast-paced, energetic Feis will take place in the Emerald Room. Five hundred dancers are expected to participate in the annual Irish step-dancing competition.

An inviting environment

John Griffin, past president of Gaelic Park and a current board member, said the decision to move certain festival programs indoors was one made to both showcase Gaelic Park’s cozy interior spaces and allow Irish Fest attendees a refuge into indoor comforts, including air conditioning, heating, and restroom facilities, and potentially away from Mother Nature’s hot, humid, or wet wrath.

“We have tremendous indoor facilities at Gaelic Park and we want people to explore exactly what we have to offer,” Griffin said. “By moving these things indoors, we’re trying to get the best of both worlds.”

All the rooms, Griffin said, include stately full-service bar areas, which will allow guests the opportunity to enjoy beverages beyond the typical festival drinks found on the outside grounds.

While Gaelic Park leaders have long capitalized on the complex’s sprawling 54-acre parcel in southwest suburban Oak Forest to host Irish Fest, event organizers believe increasing the indoor programming will lengthen stays and produce a more inviting environment for attendees and performers alike.

“The increased presence of indoor events simply raises Irish Fest to another level,” Griffin said, adding that moving the Feis indoors, in particular, will produce a more appropriate environment for that celebrated festival event.

Over the four-day festival, many other attractions will stay outside under tents, including: the festival’s two main entertainment stages; the more intimate workshops tent and its Crossroads stage that will cater to smaller performances; the kid friendly Leprechaun stage featuring jugglers, magicians, and puppet shows; the tea and wine rooms; and the Grafton Street marketplace, where about two dozen vendors will peddle Irish goods.