Irish Fest opens Friday

FRANKFORT — The "biggest names in Celtic music" converge on the Herkimer County Fairgrounds in Frankfort on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the 9th Annual Great American Irish Festival, headlined by Ireland’s Folk Band of the year and winners of Irish Music Award’s Top Traditional Performance Show, the High Kings.

Prices with and without camping or just for single days and schedule information are at www.gaif.us/

Starting as a one-day festival drawing approximately 6,000 in 2004, GAIF has grown to a three-day event drawing over 50,000 people each year from all over the world to celebrate Irish culture. The growth is expected to continue this year, with a 2012 lineup that will equal any festival in the nation.

"I think it’s important that people around here realize that this is not just a big local event" said Festival Director Matthew Sullivan. "The Great American Irish Festival is recognized internationally as one of the top Irish festivals in the world."

The High Kings boasts a musical pedigree that few can match, and fresh off record-breaking PBS showings, four musical powerhouses, Finbarr Clancy of the legendary Clancy family, Brian Dunphy, son of well-known singer, Sean Dunphy, Martin Furey of the famous Furey family of musicians, and renowned vocalist Darren Holden have come together "to create the most exciting Irish ballad group to emerge since The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem electrified the worldwide folk revival of the 1960s," organizers said.

The lineup includes: High Kings, The Elders, Solas, Enter the Haggis, Seven Nations, Hair Of The Dog, Barleyjuice, Cathie Ryan, Rathkeltair, Searson, Stone Row, Runa, Long Time Courting, The Blarney Rebel Band, Kevin McKrell, Donal O’Shaughnessy, Stoutmen, Rakish Paddy, Finnvara’s Wren, Pat Kane, Vince Colgan, Gerry Dixon, Callanach, Kilrush, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann, Rattlin’ Bog.

Proceeds from the annual festival will be used to help establish an Irish Cultural Center in the Mohawk Valley. Construction has already begun on the site of the former St. Patrick’s Church at the corner of Columbia and Varick Streets in Utica.

In addition to the non-stop music, vendors from across the U.S. and Ireland will be selling Irish and Celtic merchandise, and a variety of food booths will be providing a taste of the Emerald Isle for festival-goers. Returning again this year will be the 5k run, bagpipe competition with a spectacular massed march, and Irish Mass. Campsites are also available.

The Herkimer County Fairgrounds is located just off Route 5S.

On the net: www.gaif.us