FRANKFORT – The Great American Irish Festival begins this evening, bringing some new features and classic favorites to the Valley for the 14th year.
Doors open at the Herkimer County Fair Grounds tonight at 4 p.m., an hour earlier than years past, with the first band,
Hair of the Dog, taking the stage right from the start. And as a special incentive for those inclined to start the party early, paid admissions between 4 and 5 p.m. receive one free domestic beer, said GAIF Assistant Director Bill Barry.
This year’s event will see a number of new attractions and a few new spins on classic ones, Barry said.
“We’ve got some new and improved versions of events,” he commented.
The annual Highland Games, for example, will take on a more traditional aspect this year, with events like caber tossing, where competitors balance a tall, tapered poll in their hands and toss it forward as far as they can. This year’s pipe bane competition will include three strictly youth groups, a first for the GAIF.
“I’m excited to see that,” Barry said, adding that there are 19 groups competing in all.
After disappearing for a time in the past, the Wee Zone kids’ area has returned this year and will be full of children’s activities and games, and on the adult side of things, in addition to beer, attendees will be able to enjoy wine and wine slushies, Barry said.
Returning favorites include the whiskey tasting sessions, to be held this year on Friday at 6 and 8 p.m., and again Saturday at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. A whiskey export will guide tasters through their whiskey samples, explaining how the liquor is made and a bit of its history. Whiskey tasting costs an additional $25 on top of the general admittance fee, and includes a long-sleeve tee, Barry said.
In the Cultural Building, visitors will find the photo contest, which is still accepting submissions, artwork by local Irish artists, the cultural music stage, Irish step dancing shows, Irish instrument workshops and a new feature this year, workshops on speaking the Irish language and Gaeltachts, during which Gaelic speakers will sit around and converse informally for visitors listening pleasure, said Colleen Martin, who is in charge of the Cultural Building.
There will also be a live Irish Pub Session Saturday at 8:15, during which
Irish musicians will hold a “jam session” in the Irish style.
For a complete schedule of events, visit the GAIF website at greatamericanirishfest.com.
GAIF takes place 4 to 11 p.m. today, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday with a 5K race starting at the fair grounds at 10 a.m., and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday with a 10:30 a.m. Mass. Admittance at the door is $18 tonight and Sunday, $20 on Saturday. Children 12 and younger and active military personnel and their families enter for free.