Perhaps such perfectly swell holy days like Polish patron Saint Stanislaus' day (April 11) or Lithuanian patroness Saint Cunegundes' day (March 3) would have crossed into mainstream American culture if only those folks could have figured out what color to dye the beer. The backers of Saint Patrick's Day had no such problem; all the green beer and bad fake brogues have spilled over onto other dates, hence celebrations like Irish Fest 2001 this weekend.
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The 15th annual Fort Lauderdale Irish festival is a three-day affair, kicking off February 16 with headlining band the Prodigals. These Irish-American jig-rockers have been called "the Chieftains on caffeine," a description that lead vocalist and accordion player Gregory Grene has said he appreciates. The band performs at the festival all three days, churning up interest in its upcoming CD, Dreaming in Hell's Kitchen, which is naturally set for release March 17.
This year's fest features more than 30 Irish bands providing nonstop entertainment, along with bagpipes, step dancers, theater, ceili dancing, arts and crafts, an Irish marketplace, an international food fair, and what for these three days is Florida's largest Irish pub, the Dublin Pub Tent. The event is sponsored by Guinness, after all. And while you're relishing those thick, syrupy stouts, you should probably get a few important phrases down, things like "Tabhair dhom beoir" (give me a beer) and "Adh moir" (cheers). Once you've had a few and that fine-looking Irish lass or laddie comes by, you'll need to know "Dia dhuit" (Hello) and "Cad is ainm duit?" (What's your name?). When you've dispensed with the pleasantries, you might feel bold enough to inquire, "Is dócha nach bhfuil seans ar bith ann?" (the rough Gaelic equivalent of "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?"). After you've wiped the beer off your face, you'll probably need to slink off and blend into the music-loving crowd.
Irish Fest 2001
Fort Lauderdale Stadium, 5301 NW 12th Ave., Fort Lauderdale
Tickets are sold at the gate and cost $12 for adults; children age 12 and younger get in free. A three-day pass is available for $15. Festival hours are Friday 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday noon to 11 p.m., Sunday noon to 9 p.m. (preceded by a Gaelic Mass at 11 a.m.). Call the Irish Cultural Institute at 954-946-1093 or 800-882-3746 for more information.
In addition to the aforementioned Prodigals, other notable musical acts on the main stage include the Fenians, Brigid's Cross, Blackthorn, and Seanchai and the Unity Squad. But the main stage is just one of four venues at the fair. The Irish Spirit Stage will present folksier acts, including Echoes of Erin and Stephens Green. The Shamrock Showmobile boasts acts such as juggler Wade Henry, the Claddagh Ceili Dancers, and the Rondeau Irish Step Dancers. Finally the Irish Cultural Tent features lectures on Irish culture, with topics such as "Irish in America" by Derek Warfield and "The Great Irish Hunger" by Marie Smith.
When it's all over, the last bagpipe has blared, and you've danced your last reel, you can always go home and wait a month to do it all over again for Saint Patrick's Day at any of the vast array of Irish pubs that call Fort Lauderdale home.