APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – The third annual Irish Fest of the Fox Cities was a charm for organizers looking to draw folks from far and wide.
Mid-way through the second day of the festival, Director Matt Miller said just by sight, the crowds looked like their largest. Anecdotally, it was a cross-country trip among the faces in the crowd.
“I’ve talked with so many people from Illinois and Michigan,” Miller told Local 5 News. “We had a guy from Kansas City, and a lot of people came up from Milwaukee. So yeah! They’re coming from all over!”
The official word from the festival on Monday was that just below 4,000 people total attended.
Headlining bands Scythian and Skerryvore sent out social media posts of gratitude to the enthusiastic crowds of thousands who gathered in Jones Park.
“Irish Fest of the Fox Cities!!! You all absolutely ROCKED this weekend,” said Scythian before heading up to Chicago to play the Irish Festival up north. “Thank you so much to all the staff/volunteers/organizers/sound crew and EVERYONE for putting on such an amazing festival!”
Skerryvore posted to Facebook before leaving Wisconsin for a festival in Michigan.
“Thank you, Appleton! We had an AMAZING weekend with you once again!”
While committee members acknowledge that music is the biggest draw, they were also very clear about setting out to bring an array of cultural exhibits to both the Friday and Saturday celebrations.
“The mission of our festival is to create a family-friendly festival. It’s really about celebrating culture and heritage,” John Hogerty told Local 5 News. “We’ve been able to expand our cultural events. We have professors here to talk about the history of Ireland. There’s some genealogy. But what really is the best is just seeing everyone gather together.”
The festival extended from the wide open space of Jones Park in downtown Appleton to the adjoining Fox Cities Exposition Center.
Two exhibits were featured here that were on loan from the Consulate General of Chicago.
The first was about famed Irish writer James Joyce.
The second exhibit marked the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement that brought an end to violent conflict often referred to as “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland.
The expo center also offered an additional sitting area to enjoy musical and dance performances.
“It has grown and changed each year,” noted Hogerty. “It’s gotten a little bit bigger each year. We’re still trying to keep it family-friendly and intimate. But you can still find Irish food here, Irish drink, Irish music, lots of things to do for people to just come out and enjoy.”