Irish Fest ends with green and gold and green

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Sunday, October 6, 2013

JANESVILLE--On Sunday afternoon, visitors to downtown Janesville were greeted by an unusual trio of sounds: bagpipes, rock 'n' roll and play-by-play chatter of a Packers football game.

It was the final day of Janesville's first Irish Fest, a four-day event that combined food, music, entertainment and family activities. The Packers' game was another excellent excuse to wear green.

Despite cool weather that kept Sunday's attendance lower than it might have been, organizers said they were happy with the turnout, and hoped the city would come together for another Irish Fest next year.

Along with a second performance from Gaelic Storm in the evening, Sunday's events included “Shamrock Around the Block” on Main Street and a family festival sponsored by Mercy Health Systems in Courthouse Park.

Dan Fredericks, Irish Fest co-chairman, said much of the success was due to the number of organizations who partnered to put on a diverse range of activities.

In addition, nonprofits partnered with each other or with businesses to support the festival and do some fundraising for themselves, Fredericks said.

For example, nonprofit Independent Disability Services worked with Rotary Botanical Gardens for Sunday's pancake breakfast.

“On Thursday, you had Kutter (Harley-Davidson), Quaker Steak & Lube, and the Learning Development Academy from Forward Janesville working together,” said Fredericks. 

More than that, Janesville residents finally seemed willing to embrace an event wholeheartedly. Saturday's concert was sold out and Friday's banquet and documentary showing was full.

What made the difference?

“It's the Irish,” Fredericks said. “Irish people go to every event they can. People were saying that not only do they go to the Milwaukee Irish Fest, but they go to the Oshkosh Irish Fest, and the Irish Fest in Iowa.”

Matt Schreier, owner of the Looking Glass, 18 S. Main St., and organizer of Shamrock Around the Block, dressed in a kilt for the event, as did Bruce Monson, another downtown supporter.

Shamrock Around the Block was smaller that “Rock Around the Block,” the end-of-summer event that was canceled this year. It many ways, this event worked better, Schreier said. 

“It was easier to manage, we had better logistical control over this event,” Schreier said. “I'd really like to more city-wide events like this one.”

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