Looking for some Irish fun? The 34th annual North Texas Irish Festival returns to Fair Park this weekend, March 4 through March 6.
This year’s theme celebrates the legends of the past and the legacy that continues to draw tens of thousands of fans to Dallas for everyone’s favorite celebration of music, dance and Irish culture. Presented by the Southwest Celtic Music Association, a non-profit that fosters the tradition of Irish culture in North Texas, this largest cultural festival in DFW is also revered as one of the best Irish festivals in the U.S.
At the heart of the North Texas Irish Festival is the music. This year’s theme, Legends and Legacies, highlights the legends of Irish music who leave a legacy for fans of all generations.
This year, gracing the festival are international favorites Altan and Solas, among other featured performers from around the world. New this year are special appearances from Celtic Aire, the premier folk ensemble of the U.S. Air Force; and Scythian, a Celtic band from the Ukraine that specializes in “immigrant rock.”
.“Our festival and our non-profit organization, the Southwest Celtic Music Association revolve around this music,” said Sheri Bush, president of the Southwest Celtic Music Association, the presenting organization of the festival. “It’s possibly one of the greatest gifts that the Celtic culture has given to the world.”
The North Texas Irish Festival features top Irish musicians and dancers from around the world and a number of cultural presentations on 13 stages at Fair Park.
After all that music and dancing, hungry appetites can be satisfied with Irish stew, Shepherd’s pie, or even fish and chips at one of the many food booths featuring traditional Irish cuisine.
Cooking presentations from top chefs will modernize Irish classics with new flavor twists and cook with traditional Irish ingredients such as Guinness — fare that attendees can taste and then wash down with a glass of their favorite Irish beverage. Whiskey tastings, blacksmithing demonstrations, horse displays and more allow attendees to experience Celtic culture. Urchin Street kid-friendly activities include children’s entertainment, a petting zoo, safety demonstrations and art activities.
Storytellers, those blessed with the Blarney’s gift of gab!, will weave tales of Celtic lore for everyone to enjoy.
Musicians Headlining performers at the 34th Annual North Texas Irish Festival include: Altan, Solas, Cathie Ryan, Jed Marum, Ed Miller, Patrick Ball, Makem & Spain, Scythian, and special guests Celtic Aire. Featured performers include: 5 Second Rule, BEHAN, Beyond the Pale, Coolin, Celtic Cowboys, Earl Grey in the Morning, Flashpoint, Irish Rogues, Jeff Ward, Jiggernaut, Jigsaw, Jim Flanagan, Michael William Harrison, North Texas Caledonian Pipes & Drums, Poor Man’s Fortune, Ravens Three, RussellClan, Selkie Girls, Singing Pilgrims, Skeleton McKee, String Theory, The Jig is Up, The Rogues, Therese Honey, Threadneedle St., Tröen, Tullamore and Vintage Wildflowers.
The music goes on all weekend and encompasses myriad approaches to Celtic music from traditional jigs and reels to pub ballads to Celtic rock.
Some of the world’s finest Irish Step Dancers are located in local schools in the DFW Metroplex, including the Inishfree School of Irish Dance, Jackson Irish Dancers, Maguire Academy of Irish Dance, McTeggart Irish Dancers of North Texas, New Orleans Irish Set Dancers and the Shandon-O’Regan Irish Dance Academy.
Performers from these schools will entertain audiences with continuous performances on the dance stage. The traditional and modern Irish dancers with their hand-embroidered dresses and fast foot- tapping rhythms are not to be missed. In addition, there will be dance workshops throughout the weekend, and everyone is encouraged to get into the spirit of Ireland at Saturday night’s Dance “Ceili,” a traditional Irish party led by local Irish dance instructors.
The North Texas Irish Festival also brings together a wide variety of exhibitors, workshops and demonstrations. Urchin Street will offer a special place where kids can find entertainment, education, play and fun, including crafts, music, dance, storytelling, magic and mystery. Storytellers — or “Shanachie” – will perform traditional Irish stories in the way that the Irish learned of their history for hundreds of years. Equestrian shows, including the Celtic Horse Experience, blacksmithing and other demonstrations will be performed in various areas of Fair Park. The “First Texas ‘Ceili, pronounced “kay-lee” and meaning “gathering” in Gaelic, was held in 1983 at a local Oak Lawn pub and has grown into the largest celebration of Irish culture in the Southwest.
Gates for the festival will open Friday evening, March 4, at 6 p.m. Hours are 6 to 11 p.m. on Friday; 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5; and 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 6. Tickets are available online at www.ntif.org. Admission is FREE on Friday from 6 to 7 p.m.; $10 after (50% off coupons online at www.ntif.org). A one-day ticket is $20 on Saturday and $15 on Sunday at the gate, while a two-day ticket is $25 and a weekend pass is $30. Discount tickets are available at area Tom Thumb and Albertsons stores. Children 11 and under are FREE when accompanied by adult family member. Seniors over 65 or current military members (with valid military ID) receive $5 off all gate prices.
Dogs are allowed in on a short leash with a $1 requested donation to animal rescue groups supported by the festival.
Leprechauns, in full ceremonial dress and carrying pot of gold, are free. Parking is available in and around Fair Park, or attendees can take the DART (take the Green Line and save some green!) to the front entrance of Fair Park and the North Texas Irish Festival.
Detailed directions and parking tips are available at www.ntif.org.