The Southern Illinois Irish Festival comes together for its 21st celebration of Irish music and culture on Saturday and Sunday at Walker’s Bluff in Carterville.
The festival includes two days of outdoor concerts, whiskey tastings, Scottish Highland Games, and children’s activities. The festival runs from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Admission is $10 per adult.
The Southern Illinois Irish Festival has seen many changes in the past 21 years. Yet, the festival has shown endurance within the community, bringing crowds of 1,000 to 4,000 people each year. Bryan Kelso Crow has been involved with the festival since its inception, brought into this project by Charles Fanning in 1997.
Fanning is the director of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Irish and Irish Immigration Studies Program. The festival began as a project to celebrate Irish American music. It wasn’t originally billed as a festival, but a Friday and Saturday night concert. The following year, it was turned into an outdoor festival.
The original concerts were first held at Shryock auditorium. After stops at Carbondale Town Square Pavilion and Turley Park, the festival is now held at Walker’s Bluff. The venue provides more space, and an event staff, which is something Crow sees as a blessing.
Crow is a member of Carbondale’s own Irish music band, The Dorians. The Dorians have played each of the 20 years at the Irish Fest. Crow has served both as a volunteer and board member for the festival.
Other performers include the Heartstrings, The Brianna Brown Band, the Blackberry Blossoms, local Johnston City performers Roisín Dubh, Metro East band Celtica, and the Wee Heavies! Carter and Connelley will also be playing from 7 to10 p.m., at the Tasting Room on Saturday.
On both days, the Ancient Athletes from Springfield will be performing Scottish Highland Games on the field, and Kinmundy piper Sean Folsom will demonstrate bagpipes of the world.