Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ohio Adventures: the Dublin Irish Festival.

I know you'll find this implausible but it is legitimate: Dublin, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus) holds the title of second largest Celtic festival IN THE WORLD. Yes, the world. We are second only to Milwaukee, WI. 

The 
Dublin Irish Festival (a.k.a. DIF) is particularly special to me because I went for the first time in 1999, on my third date with he who is now known as my Spouse. I bought my first item with a trinity knot (more on its importance to come). Afterward, in the parking lot of Coffman High School, my now-husband kissed me for the first time. To quote Tom from "Four Weddings and a Funeral", thunder bolt city. 

This past festival was certainly no exception. In fact, it may have been one of the absolute best. 

August in Ohio is not exactly fun to be out of doors. Normally, it is 3H weather: hot, humid and hellish. This August has been delightfully (and illogically) cool, not humid and also dry. So when only one of the days was over 80 degrees, sunny and not even that humid, it was incredible to be outside, listening to world-class music and enjoying time with our people. 

We spend so much time there that a few years' ago, we decided it was in our best fiscal interest to become "VIPs" and join the Emerald Club. You get fed by yummy vendors, admission for all three days, and it's all drinks included <ahem!>. 

Last year we spent 24 hours over three days and this year, we spent 28.5 hours over 3 days. More than that, it's been really nice to see some of the same faces every year, especially the past DIF chairs, who literally host you (clean up after you and all that). Also, private bathrooms. That alone is worth the price. (The alternative is portas - meh).
Lunch by Old Bag of Nails.
The last few years, I've noticed another young couple who seem to do what we do: arrive, have a beverage, listen to whatever band is on the stage right in front of the Emerald Club, wander around, repeat. But, because I'm a dork, I've never walked up and said, "Hi, I'm Jen. You look fun. Let's be DIF friends!". And more is the pity because then we'd have been friends with Kelly & Nate that much sooner! It was such a pleasure to get to know them - by the end of the weekend, they were family and we're really looking forward to spending some non-DIF time with them too. 
Spouse (in his new Utilikilt), me, Kelly and Nate
A few (other) reasons why I love this festival
1. The organizers take into consideration the breadth of Celtic music, history, and culture. And in the last few years, a real effort has made to make it fun for everyone - not just us pasty caucasians of Western Europe origin - but literally everyone. As a secular humanist (for lack of a better term more than anything), I love being reminded that humans truly have more similarities than differences. 

2. They take chances on acts. A few years ago, we were treated to a great band Salsa Celtica, a fusion band out of Edinburgh, Scotland; another year, Baka Beyond, an Afro-Celtic band with influences of the rain forest; this year, it was an amazing honor to finally hear Carlos Núñez, the world-reknowned piper from the Galician area of Spain. 

3. In addition to our third date location and our first kiss location, we purchased our wedding rings at DIF in 2003. 
4. Our DIF fever has spread to a number of family and friends. Just to name a few: John, Jenn & Miss K (+ a few of her friends), Brigid & Kurt, Booker & Yvonne; and our dearest late BFF, Elise <sniff, sniff>. In addition, we frequently run into friends, or have friend who text or message us in some way to ask "Where are you?". In short, it's just a super fun time, made better, by guess what? The company!!
My friend, Gretchen - we've known each other since we were 12
5. THE MUSIC. Holy lord, the music. There are 7 stages, including the Céilí Tent (dancing tent), and it's a little bit of everything. Local bands, national bands, international bands. Bands with banjos, bands with bagpipes, uilleann pipes, tin flutes. Bands with guitars, banjos, violins. Bands with singers who can dance. Bands with singers who play traditional drums and the celtic drum called a bodhrán. Celtic rock. Traditional music. Fusion. Pipe and drum corps. Rebel songs. Celtic rock. You name it and you can find it there.

Bands we saw there: We Banjo 3 (my new favorite band), Open the Door for Three, Full Set, Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Natalie MacMasterScythian, Slide, The Willis ClanBarleyjuiceBrock McGuire Band, The High Kings and some of our absolute local favorites: The Hooligans, Bob Ford and the Ragamuffins, Lone RavenVinegar HillClear Blue Sundayand Drowsy Lads


If you go, things to not miss:

Blacksmith and apprentice in Brian Bóru's Ireland
  • Take some time to thoughtfully walk through the area known as Brian Bóru's Ireland. It may look strange, with people in period dress and activities going on, but a.) you learn a lot from the folks in period dress - they aren't just there for show; b.) there are handmade items for sale at really great prices; c.) if you or your kids are into history, it's truly fascinating to talk with the various people, like the blacksmith. 
  • GO TO THE FINALE on Sunday evening. It is an incredible time. Each band is given a few minutes on stage, so if there is someone you have missed, at least you'll get to hear a snippet. PLUS, at the very end, everyone gets on stage to play together. The atmosphere is amazing. 
  • See as many bands/acts as you can. We don't always sit in on full sets, especially if it's a band that is playing multiple days but mainly because I want to hear everyone. The venues, and atmosphere, is one where you can wander in and wander out so don't feel bad doing it. 
  • Spend some time watching the Highland Games. Lots of dudes (and a few ladies) in kilts doing "weird" but compelling things with stones, small bales of straw and telephone poles. It's amazing to watch and the competitors really do appreciate the support.
  • Assuming you aren't allergic, go through the Celtic Canines section. It's really fun and the doggies are nice.
Other hints to make it a better time for everyone:
  • The traditional Irish toast is Sláinte. Prounounced slan-cha, means "health".
  • Travel light. Try not to bring your SUV of a stroller, don't bring your huge purse - this way you literally don't take up a lot of space. There are a lot of people at almost all of the events, with limited seating. Don't be the douchewagon who takes up more seats than you really need. Share. Offer up your seat to older folk. Be respectful of sightlines as much as you can. Make it a fun experience for everyone!
  • Bring sunscreen if you'll be there during the day. Or a hat. Or both. 
  • Hydrate. Duh.
  • Buy more tokens than you think you'll need. Hint: they use the same tokens year after year. As long as they are dark green with the words Dublin Irish Fest legitimately printed on them, they will take them any year. 
  • Talk to the vendors.  Ask them where they are from and are they having a good festival?
  • Find a shady, cool spot if you can and just people watch. First, there are a ton of men in kilts. Not to mention every possible shade of green apparel you can imagine. It's just a great time to watch over 100,000 of your fellow humans congregate.
From 2012 but Spouse on left in his old Utilikilt, and
my "big brother" Kurt on right in his Donegal plaid kilt.
We'll be there next year too, so look for us in the Emerald Club. First weekend in August - every year!
May those that love us, love us
And those that don't love us, 
May God turn their hearts. 
And if he doesn't turn their hearts, 
May he turn their ankle, 
So we'll know them by their limp. 
Sláinte!

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