Some days, Mommy gets a present. After having a houseful of friends and fun and staying up late then sleeping in late, I got out of bed this morning and told the girls, “Get dressed. Let’s go to the Irish Festival.” The unspoken: Mommy wants to shop. The girls were happy to oblige and squealed their way into clothes. With our cereal bar breakfasts in hand, we headed to the car.
Being half Irish and raised with plenty of Irish tales and music, I have always loved the Irish Festival here. Miles of booths with scrumptious Irish fare; beautiful Celtic crafts, jewelry, and clothes; and stage upon stage with every kind of Irish music and dancing you could ever imagine. It is a balm to my soul and a joy to my heart to spend the day shopping, eating, and toe-tapping.
The best part of it all is that both of my girls are festival goers. This is one area where we all agree and we are game for whatever festival happens to be around. We love the food and the fun, and we don’t mind walking and braving the heat to enjoy it.
In the beating of noon-day sun made our way across the festival grounds through the marketplace until we found a booth filled with beautiful Celtic style dresses. I honed in on a section filled with rich hues — emerald greens, Caribbean blues, and deep, royal purples all decorated with Celtic knot and weave designs. To my delight, the dresses were sized and I quickly found a small and medium to slip over my shirt and shorts in the makeshift dressing room with woven Celtic blanket walls. The girls crowded into the little room with me and gave me their opinions on the dresses. I chose a purple one and one with a fanciful pattern of blues, greens, and purples with gold spirals scattered across.
As a reward, it was time for lunch. Adia has been eating, and loving, fish and chips since she was two years old, so we set out for the traditional fish and chip booth. Right beside it was an open picnic table shaded by a small tree where we enjoyed our fish – at least Adia and I did, Malaika turned up her nose and ate the chips – and listened to some traditional fiddle music.
Along with all the booth wares and music, the festival is chock full of teaching about all things Irish. Storytellers abound, traditional Irish dwellings and games are set up, and then there are the Celtic Canines. After eating, we traversed the grounds until we came to the canine village where there are dogs hanging out with their owners who are more than happy to share all the details of their particular breed with you as well as tales of their beloved animals. The dogs are used to and eager to greet and accept all the love and attention you care to shower upon them.
We made our way down the row, spending a good deal of time with the friendly Wheaton terrier, Fergus, who never met a stranger and licked our faces then let us scratch under his chin – his favorite spot, according to his owner. The red Irish Setter, Molly, glided through her space while we learned that this breed are pointers and used in bird hunting. Adia set the pace and we moved from breed to breed until, finally, at the end of the row, we were rewarded with her favorites.
From the time she could walk, Adia has always loved the enormous Irish Wolfhounds. Being raised with our Siberian Husky, she never had a fear of any dog and was happy to stand nose to nose with the gentle giants. She headed right over to a very large gray one laying beside his owner. We learned that he was 10 months old and his name was Davidson. Adia knelt at his head and Malaika at his tail with me in the middle. He was the largest, I think, of all the wolfhounds there at the time, and that included two adults nearby. I could only marvel at just how large this dog would be when he is full grown at age two. As we chatted with his owner, Davidson stretched out to his nearly three foot length and rolled onto one side, sprawling right over my foot and laying his huge head in Adia’s lap. She looked at me and giggled and did not break her petting motion. There being adoreed by strangers, the giant closed his eyes and fell asleep. Adia could not have been more delighted.
At the informational session we learned that wolfhounds, in addition to having been traditionally fast and effective hunters of the Irish wolf, are very much people dogs. They want to be where you are, preferably with a part of themselves touching against or draped across you. We were also told that they meet a person once and from then on are fast friends. “They never forget a person,” the speaker said.
With the educational program finished, we made out way back down the row of animals and we spent some more time with Davidson who was finally starting to wake up from his afternoon nap. I think Adia would have taken him home if he’d been offered. Each breed got another petting as we made our way out. And we were off in search of shaved ice to cool us down.
Traditional “fiddledy-dee music,” as my Irish friend, Una, called it accompanied a shaded rest while the girls ate their rootbeer flavored ice. We followed the sound of the drum beat from there to the Celtic Rock Stage and whooped it up with a great band called, Scythian, until they finished their set. The girls clapped and danced and followed along with the hand motions as directed.
When there was a break for band changes, we headed over to another maketplace area where we found a fresh offering of Celtic wares. These cotton beauties were died in earthy tones of green, rust, and a beautiful merlot red that caught my eye. After pulling on shirts and a skirt then a dress, I left with I think it the most stunning dress I’ve ever seen, full of embroidered designs and lacey insets that made me feel elegant wearing it even over my day clothes.
After just a couple of songs from yet another style of Irish rock music, it was getting late and there were still a few chores awaiting me at home. Sadly, but without any shenanigans, we began our trek toward the exit. Our final stop was at a booth I’d spied on the way in that held, beautifully carved in a Celtic font, wooden signs bearing names and words and symbols of all varieties. Together, the three of us chose the first of what will be many welcome signs in multiple languages that will grace the entry way of our new home – Failte, flanked by the thistle on one side and the shamrock on the other. The perfect homage to my Irish and Scottish heritage.
We were hot and tired, and the girls were hungry again as we made our way to the car, yet in grand Irish tradition, we retold our favorite parts of our afternoon adventure as we drove home. Adia loved the music and the dogs. Malaika favored the rootbeer ice. And me? My favorite part was spending the afternoon sharing the things that I love with the two girls I love the most.