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Peoria Irish Fest organizers have confirmed their cultural festival will take place August 27 - 29 in Peoria's Riverfront Park.

Theresa Hoadley can remember the exact year her family plunged knee-deep into the Peoria Irish Fest.

“It was 2002,” said the mother of three. “Our family had attended the fest most years before, but maybe not every time.” That was the year her family helped host the event’s first direct-from-Ireland band, Rig the Jig.

Band members brought their wives along, so local families were recruited to make them feel at home. “It was a wonderful experience for our entire family. We kept Jimmy Flanagan and his wife, Bernie, for the weekend – took them to our son’s soccer game, showed them our lives, and we became good friends.”

The Hoadleys hosted band members in following years, have stayed with the Flanagans in Ireland multiple times, and are now on the event’s organizing committee.

While fest organizers can’t promise the same depth of experience for everyone, performers are exceptionally accessible in Peoria.

Only one of four performance stages has any sort of barrier between performers and audience. And musicians are often spotted wandering the grounds along the picturesque Illinois River.

Entertainment Chair Tom McConnaughay likes to call the Peoria fest small but mighty. “We’re on the calendar between the Milwaukee and Kansas City fests. So, bigger-name groups are often available to play in Peoria. Yet we’re far smaller than those great events. It’s much easier to get a CD signed or to have a conversation with your favorite musicians.”
The Peoria Irish Fest is the largest Illinois Celtic festival outside of Chicago.
Tickets at the door will cost $13, with a three-day Event Pass for $30. Discounted tickets are available online now, and kids under 12 are always free when accompanied by an adult.

Bands who reside in Ireland, Scotland or anywhere outside the U.S. are unable to tour here this year, So, the fest is featuring great U.S.-based bands, both international and American groups."

Performers scheduled to play include:
Scythian, Eileen Ivers, Jig Jam, Members of Lunasa, The Gothard Sisters, Adam & Jon, The Byrne Brothers, and Bohola and more!



Relaxed by design
If the world seems focused on high-energy, pulse-quickening experiences, the Peoria Irish Fest’s low-key vibe is intentional. Guests’ mindsets are shaped when greeted by entry signs proclaiming ‘You are now entering Ireland on the Illinois River.’ Around 12,000 are expected to flow through the gates over three days. So even a crowded day is easy for everyone to manage.

“We offer an experience that is meant to be savored slowly, not swallowed hole,” said Event Co-Chair, John Martin. “We try to arrange our fest like a small Irish town. Guests who have visited Ireland have noticed, and complimented us on the effort we make.”

Central to Peoria’s ‘town’ is the shopping area, plop in the middle of everything, like a downtown High Street. Dozens of vendors offering Celtic jewelry, wearables, and wide ranges of other goods tempt passing eyes.

Just off the High Street, you’ll find ‘the shops.’ Guests can visit the local undertaker to learn the history behind Irish wakes. Or discover Peoria’s Irish sister city. You might even hear a tale from a seanchaí, or story teller.

A short stroll away – and scattered throughout the fest grounds – are small food shops specializing in Irish treats and unique tastes.

The community comes together in the children’s play area. Peoria enlists Bradley University’s Chemistry Club to engage the Wee Ones with safe, entertaining experiments.

On the edge of ‘town,’ the sports field invites guests to try their hand at the Highland Games (Saturday) before the athletes get down to serious competition (Sunday). Axe throwing lets everyone channel their inner Celtic warrior, too.

Next to the sports field is the large community dance / music hall. It’s just one of the fest’s five pubs and four entertainment stages. “We feature artist workshops in our smallest venue,” said Martin. “Our guests are literally within an arm’s reach of the weekend’s headliners.

“We’ve tried to build our event as both a peaceful place where families gather every year … yet everyone can find an exciting show, too.”

It doesn’t bother McConnaughay or Martin if anyone calls their fest ‘small time.’ They feel it’s just the right size and – far more importantly – entertainers, vendors and guests enjoy being there.

No pressure. People like to talk to you. Everyone’s having a good time.

“When bands here for the first time check out, they often remark how friendly everyone has been – staff and guests alike,” said McConnaughay.  

“That’s just how we are. We’re all friends here.”

Additional Info
With more than 40 performances on multiple stages, the Peoria Irish Fest has something for everyone. Fantastic shopping opportunities, a Cultural Village chocked full of exhibits, delicious food and beverages, and kids' activities.

An axe-throwing station will make fierce Celtic warriors of guests Friday and Saturday. Members of the public can try their hand at the Highland Games on Saturday, while the athletes compete against each other on Sunday.

Peoria Irish fest is a partnership between the St. Patrick Society of Peoria and the Peoria Park District. Get tickets and more information at www.peoriairishfest.com

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