Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like St. Patrick’s Day, and if you know anything at all about our city’s rich Celtic heritage, you know that means it’s high time for the annual Savannah Irish Festival.
One of the most cherished, family-oriented events in town, it’s a cornucopia of music, dance, folklore, food and traditional arts and crafts — including a number of artisans and vendors who travel here directly from Ireland, just for this event, weighed down with otherwise unavailable CDs, fashions and home accessories.
This will be the 16th installment of the festival, and it seems the celebration gets bigger and more impressive with time.
As in several years past, the festivities will take place inside the Civic Center’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Arena. And, as has become tradition, there will be a number of different stages —some more intimate than others— utilized for a continuous schedule of music and performances. There’s even a stage set aside specifically for shows designed with kids in mind.
Unlike the city’s own massive St. Patrick’s Day Festival, which lasts several days, and (though nominally focusing around an Irish and/or Catholic theme) includes a wide swath of populist attractions and entertainment, this 2-day soiree is about the closest one can come to actually visiting The Green Isle without spending a small fortune (and having their shoes x-rayed).
That’s not to say this is a one-note happening. On the contrary, its organizers are known for programming a wide range of entertainment that showcases many different aspects of Celtic-inspired and influenced art and music.
You can learn more at the organization’s website, www.savannahirish.org, but as admission is so reasonably priced, there’s something to be said for throwing caution to the wind and simply showing up early either day, and planning to bask in the glory that is hours and hours of general Irish-ness.
For those who require a bit more structure in their lives (or those who simply can’t turn their whole day over to such a whim without knowing more about what they’re getting into), here are some standout attractions to look forward to:
Many of the musician performers have graced this event in past years, and been rewarded for their fine work with a return engagement. Those artists include The Mckrells, who combine bluegrass-style vocal harmonies and classic folk-rock instrumentation. They’ve earned standing ovations at Carnegie Hall, and warmed up crowds for hard-hitting modern country star Travis Tritt and the inimitable Allison Krause as well.
Audience faves Roger Drawdy and the Firestarters, an Ohio-based Celtic rock band that dazzled festival-goers at their Savannah debut last year, are back again as well. They’re shrewdly piggy-backing a couple of local nightclub appearances around their festival sets at the Civic Center, which gives folks even more opportunities to catch their high-energy show (see our Music Menu for those ancillary gigs).
Other noteworthy acts include: South Carolina’s Na Fidleiri, a group of traditional fiddlers aged 9 to 20 who’ve played the Spoleto Fest and headlined with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra; Southwestern sensations The Killdares, who push the “Celtic rock” genre even further into modern power-pop; magician Gary Maurer; and established regional acoustic singer/songwriter icons Harry O’Donoghue and Carroll Brown.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As longtime festival organizer Jimmy Buttimer told me a couple years back, “This is the best deal in town. You’ll get to see and hear things over these two days that you’d likely never find anywhere else in town.”
Saturday 10:30 am till 8 pm, and Sunday noon till 6:30 pm. $11.50 daily or 2-day passes for $20. 14 and under get in free, and —Sunday only— students, active-duty military (and their families) are free with ID. Complete schedule at www.savannahirish.org.