Actually, the official name of the Emerald Isle fun-fest is the 10th annual Guinness Syracuse Irish Festival, but don’t let the title sponsor fool you. This event is about more than beer; truly. “Yes, Guinness is our title sponsor and yes, we have beer there,” said organizer David Thompson of Syracuse Event Productions, “but look at the food we’re offering, look at the merchant list. We filtered a very selective group to make sure they were Irish only. We’re promoting Irish originality, Irish creativity, Irish brilliance. The executive committee really impressed upon us that if we wanted to get involved with a beer fest, then don’t bother bidding to produce this event.
“It’s the cultural impact of the Irish people on the landscape of the city of Syracuse; that’s what we want to show off.” The executive committee about which Thompson spoke is affiliated with the Syracuse Hibernian Festival Corporation, the group that owns the festival and has a huge stake in making it a family-friendly success.
“When they interviewed our company,” Thompson stressed, “they said we want to make you understand that this is not about leprechauns and pots of gold and rainbows and drinking lots of beer. This is about Irish heritage and involvement and legacy. You can talk about the Erie Canal, and the Irish contribution to that, sports figures, politicians, the church. There’s so much more to the Irish than getting drunk.”
That said, the Irish Fest, slated for Friday, Sept. 11, and Saturday, Sept. 12, in Clinton Square truly offers something for everyone. While music kicks off the festival Friday at 5 p.m., a few hours later, a somber, but important tribute to those who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001 will begin. Thompson invites everyone to wear red, white and blue and then attend the 7:40 p.m. remembrance ceremony featuring the U.S. Marine Corps. Music continues with headliner Gaelic Storm taking the stage at 9:30 p.m.
Saturday at 10 a.m., an outdoor Catholic Mass, spoken in Gaelic, will be celebrated by Monsignor Charles Coen. Then visitors can spend the day strolling through the Irish Village, enjoying such culinary delights as fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, bangers and beans, Irish soda bread and an Irish lobster roll. Also in the Clinton Street “village,” with “facades that are replications of an Irish storefront,” Thompson said, will be Irish genealogy specialists, tin whistle demonstrations and hurling—no, not the beer-induced hurling—but a sport that combines lacrosse and cricket.
A tribute to outgoing Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll gets under way at 9:20 p.m. “Every year we want to pay special tribute to a local person of Irish descent who has contributed to our community,” Thompson noted. “We don’t care who it is, but with Driscoll, finishing up his second term as mayor, was president of the Common Council, he’s a local guy, owned a business. The Irish community wants to thank him for what he’s done. We will have a video presentation—his family will be there—and he’ll say a few words.” And again on Saturday, there will be music from 5:30 to 9:45 p.m., when headliner The Young Dubliners entertain.
The Guinness Syracuse Irish Festival takes place in Clinton Square on Friday, Sept. 11, from 5 to 11 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 12, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 422-8284.