CAPITAL DISTRICT They say everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but in the Capital District you don’t have to wait until March to celebrate Celtic heritage.
On Sept. 14 and 15, the opportunity to get your Irish eyes smilling will present itself at the 16th Annual Irish 2000 Festival. The two-day festival is known to draw tens of thousands of guests and is built around musical artists that this year include Kevin McKrell, Hair of the Dog and the Screaming Orphans.
“I think we get people who travel from all over the country for the event. … It’s one of the largest Irish Festivals in the country, said Matt Nelligan, executive director for Irish Music and Arts Festival, Inc., host of the event. “It’s a great celebration of (the Irish) culture and great for the area.”
The event will be held at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds and is set to include acts by more than 40 bands. There will also be food, dance performances, bagpipe players, pony rides and dozens of crafters. Tickets are$20 per day, and kids under 10 get in free. Parking is $3.
The first Irish Festival was the creation of Nelligan and Jim Shaughnessy in connection with the Albany Ancient Order of Hibernians, and was held at then Heritage Park in Albany. The Hibernians, or those of Irish descent, have chapters throughout the country and aim to preserve their heritage.
“We saw other festivals being successful and thought ‘Why shouldn’t we have one here?’” said Nelligan.
From that first year, the festival grew and was eventually taken on by the Irish Music and Arts Festival, Inc, a nonprofit organization that also holds several concerts every year.
To date, the festival has raised over $350,000 for local charities, including for flood victims from last year’s hurricanes. A portion of this year’s festival proceeds will support the Joseph M. Walsh Foundation, with the rest supporting the Irish Music and Arts Festival group’s operating costs.