Pictured: Open the Door for Three.
Friday, October 4 through Saturday, October 6, the seventeenth annual Southern Illinois Irish Festival will provide music, vendors, and good times.
Kicking off the festival Friday night is a headlining concert featuring the music trio Open the Door for Three. The band includes Dublin-born Chicago resident Pat Broaders on vocals and bouzouki, American fiddler Liz Knowles, and her husband Kieran O’Hare on Irish pipes and whistles. The three band members are mainstays of the Irish-music scene, having played with Riverdance, Cherish the Ladies, Bohola, Secret Garden, and the New York Pops, and mainstream artists Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, and Josh Groban.
“Basically, we are a trio of musicians playing traditional and contemporary Irish music,” Kieran O'Hare told Nightlife. “We're very much looking forward to playing the festival in Carbondale and looking to being there. This is the first time at the festival and we are all looking forward to it.”
Open the Door for Three is an internationally known band that released an album in the United States this past spring.
“We play all over the world,” O'Hare said. “We just finished a five-year run based in France in a theatrical production there. We've been all over the country in the last few weeks and months, and our appearance in Carbondale is part of our fall tour that we are doing.
“It is a mixture of instrumental music and songs which appeal to the connoisseur of Irish traditional music as well as those who are new to it,” O'Hare added. “Our instrumental combination is a very classic one. That, paired with the songs of our singer Pat Broaders, who is from Dublin, it's a varied and exciting form of music, and we look forward to bringing it to you in Carbondale.”
Brian Kelso Crow, a member of the Dorians and one of the festival organizers, is excited that Open the Door for Three will kick off the festival.
“This will be one of the top Irish bands performing in America,” Crow said. “I host the Celtic Connections radio show on WSIU and I've been playing tracks from their album all throughout this year, and I consider it one of the best albums of the year, really. They are all experienced musicians, they've been around for awhile, but this is a new trio, basically. We are very excited to have them down to hang out Friday night for the concert and also Saturday at the fair.”
While the majority of the Irish Festival will be held at Turley Park in Carbondale, Friday night's concert, cosponsored by Cousin Andy's Coffee House, will take place at Garden Grove Event Center behind the University Mall, formerly the Sports Blast.
“We'll be using their upstairs room called the Loft, or if weather is warm we can be outside on the upper place called the Terrace,” Crow said. “That will be $10 at the door and there is a full bar there, but it is a family event so people can bring kids as well.”
The Irish Festival has vendors and activities, but its big draw is the music. Saturday’s Celtic Fair performers include Open the Door for Three, Carbondale’s Irish band the Dorians, Johnston City Scottish duo Roisín Dubh, dancers and musicians from Saint Louis Irish Arts, Saint Louis Irish duo Kevin Buckley and Ian Walsh, local favorites the Blackberry Blossoms, and local violinists Heartstrings. Sunday’s Celtic Roots, American Traditions lineup includes local favorites Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin, Banjovi, the Dorians, Roisín Dubh, the Voyageurs, and After Barbed Wire (the Farmer’s Market buskers).
“The other performers are coming from Saint Louis and from around the Southern Illinois region, so we have mostly Celtic performers on Saturday at Turley Park and then a mix of Scottish-Irish with some Americana on Sunday,” Crow said. “The local Irish band that I am a member of, the Dorians, will be playing on Saturday as well as on Sunday. The Dorians’ performances on Saturday and Sunday won't duplicate anything-- it isn't like we are playing the same set over again on Sunday. It will be altogether different and more of Americana/bluegrass on Sunday, but still some Irish and Scottish in the mix also.”
This year’s Irish Festival will feature an Irish Children’s Village and children's activities, Liam the Extra-Large Leprechaun, the Medieval Combat Society, Saluki dogs, Professor Play, chair massages, a bouncy castle, a bagpipes demonstration tent hosted by Sean Folsom, and much more.
“A big attraction is the Scottish Highland Games, which we have on a field there in Turley Park that is roped off because it is dangerous,” Crow said. “Guys throwing logs the size of telephone poles and that sort of thing. You have to see that to believe it. It is the old traditional Scottish Highland competitions, and there is a group in Springfield that does this and they come down every year-- Ancient Athletics they call themselves, and that is near one of the roped-off areas for beer and wine so people can sit and drink and watch these amazing feats.”
Turley Park will pretty jam-packed with music, activities, and vendors during the weekend.
“There will also be merchandise vendors, with Celtic merchandise and all sorts of jewelry and stuff, food and drink vendors,” Crow said. “We really fill up Turley Park for those days. There are two stages of music and the bands overlap a bit, so that there is always music going on on one stage or another. We'd like to see more students come and check it out, too.
“The question came up when we went to the student volunteer fair of, 'Do you have to be Irish?' Absolutely not. You just have to appreciate good music, talent, and dance, and everything, and be looking to enjoy the cultural opportunity,” Crow added.
Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission at the park entrances will be $5 each day, with children twelve and younger admitted free when accompanied by adults. Beer and wine will be sold in special areas.
“We are just hoping for good weather and a great turnout,” Crow said.
For more information, visit <http://www.SIlIrishFest.org>.
who: Southern Illinois Irish Festival committee
what: Southern Illinois Irish Festival
where: Garden Grove Event Center; Turley Park
when: Friday, October 4 through Sunday, October 6