Over Labor Day weekend, Crown Center reverted back to tradition and held Kansas City’s annual Irish Festival. The Irish Fest adapted to COVID-19 by holding all events outside and spreading each stand apart to prevent exposure. Sanitation stands were also placed throughout the event. Roxie Smith was one of the many exhibitors to express her gratitude for the sudden income.
“This is my first time here and the festival is so much fun. I’ve just loved seeing everybody get together and have a great time,” Smith said. “It’s nothing crazy and we’re being COVID-19 safe, just having fun and celebrating friendly Irish heritage.”
Irish roots truly run through the city as the name originated from the Irish themselves. The festival gives the community a great excuse to thoroughly celebrate their heritage by eating lots of Irish food and listening to Celtic music. Another popular Irish tradition is the spread of Celtic folklore stories. Throughout the weekend, kids were held captive to the whispers of old Irish fairy tales. Irish Festival student leader Hayes Courtney spent her whole weekend listening to these stories and hopes to spread the cultural significance they have.
“Most of my time spent at the festival was in the kids’ center listening to stories of “The Claddagh Heart” and “The Legend of The Banshee”,” said Courtney. “I’m actually wearing the Claddagh Heart around my neck right now; it really is my favorite story. It tells of an Irish fisherman who was kidnapped by pirates and then sold to slavery. When he finally escaped he returned to his hometown which was called Claddagh and he married his childhood sweetheart. I think symbols like these are so cool because they represent the true values of Irish culture and these stories have traveled all over the world.”
Sarah Walsh, manager for Art in the Park and M.C. for all stages, has spent the last year awaiting the Irish Fest. With COVID-19 everything has been dicey, but many are ecstatic that the Irish Fest was able to happen at all.
“The Irish Fest is the first real event since COVID, and we are hoping for a large turnout this weekend,” said Walsh. “I have talked to many families this week, and everyone is looking forward to the event.”
The Irish Fest has an interesting tradition that they were, thankfully, able to bring back this year called a Mixtape. During the Mixtape, every band from the festival sings a song from a famous Irish artist. The tradition started in 2019, and has been brought back for the 2021 Irish Fest. This year a very special group came to visit.
“There is a hometown band coming to town for the festival, and many people love them,” Walsh said. “The band is called the Elders, and a member of the band recently passed from COVID, so they will come back to Irish fest to play a tribute to him.”
The Kansas City community showed their gratitude for the Irish Festival by coming together this year and adapting to COVID-19. The workers were able to keep each other safe while still creating Irish fun.
“I really encourage everyone to come next year and partake in our celebration,” said Courtney.