Milwaukee may be known for it’s Germanic roots—with a truly ridiculous amount of bratwursts and beer halls—but it’s also home to the world’s largest celebration of Irish and Celtic music, food, and culture. Here are the top reasons to visit Irish Fest at Henry Maier Festival Park this weekend.
1) Get your Irish on
It’s known as the world’s largest celebration of Irish culture for a reason: this is definitely not just a block party with a couple shamrock decorations and the occasional Dropkick Murphy’s song shuffled into the playlist. Experience everything from Irish cinema at the Volta Film Theatre, to a literary corner featuring Irish novelists and authors, as well as a marketplace featuring over 90 vendors selling all sorts of Irish-themed merchandise and memorabilia. And that’s just to name a few Celtic-centric draws.
2) Try your hand at an athletic endeavor
Looking for something a little bit sporty and active? Then give soccer-rugby hybrid Gaelic Football a shot! Not your style? Then try hurling, the Irish cousin to both lacrosse and field hockey, in the hurling hitting cage. Experts are on hand to demonstrate for both traditional Irish sports.
3) Watch the Currach races
More of a spectator when it comes to sports? Be sure to catch the Currach races. Held in the lagoon at the southern end of the Summerfest grounds, these Irish team rowing races will be held twice on Saturday: first at noon, and then a second race at 5 p.m. On Sunday afternoon, Milwaukee firefighters and police officers board their own Currach boats for a friendly inter-departmental competition.
4) Meet the Kilted Chef
Chef Allain Bosse, often known as the Kilted Chef due to his Celtic sartorial choices, brings his expertise to this year’s Irish Fest. Known for Atlantic cuisine (most notably cooking with lobster and mussels), the Kilted Chef is offering his recipe book-tested insight and knowledge to festival goers.
5) Eat Irish
Hungry yet? Fear not, as over 30 local food vendors are offering all the Irish favorites, such as corned beef and cabbage, Reubens, potato pancakes and, of course, the Reuben boxty (that’s a potato pancake with a Reuben sandwich baked inside). Local Irish favorites such as Mo’s Irish Pub, McBob’s, and Mulligan’s Irish Pub will be on-hand to serve these specialties.
6) Drink Irish
Nothing pairs better with some Irish nachos and an order of fish and chips than a tall glass of small batch whiskey. Thankfully, Jameson is out in full force at Irish Fest with daily tasting events, two tents, an express bar and the new Jameson On the Rocks Lounge, home to limited and distinguished Irish Whiskeys.
7) See the Red Hot Chili Pipers
From traditional Irish dance fare to the revved up rock-n-roll bagpipe tunes of the Red Hot Chili Pipers (yes, you read that right), there’s going to be something (musically) satisfying for everyone. More than fifty Irish-inspired acts will be playing across the dozen-plus stages throughout the grounds during the four day event.
8) Befriend a Celtic canine
Unfortunately, dogs and pets are not allowed within Irish Fest grounds (exceptions are made for service animals). Fortunately, festival goers can feel free to cheat on their furry friends left at home when they visit the Celtic Canine area. All eight Irish breeds will be present — from Irish Wolfhounds to Irish Terriers — who will meet, greet and perform for visitors during hourly demonstrations of obedience and agility.
9) Plan a trip to Ireland
Irish Fest may be great, but it’s not quite the real deal. Festival visitors who just can’t get enough Gaelic in their lives are in luck: two locations located just inside the main gate help prospective tourists learn more about Irish attractions and meet travel experts who will help make a dream vacation more than just a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.