August 3, 2011


OK, so it's officially called the Greater Hartford Irish Music Festival. But it's so much more than music.

The St. Patrick's Pipe Band
Let's just say that if you're in Connecticut - or have the means to get here - in late July, you must make it a priority to get to this shindig. This year, it took place July 29-31. Rain or shine, it's just a great time regardless of whether you have any Irish in your family history (I don't).

In addition to the bagpipers and fabulous Celtic-music bands that play all weekend, from Friday to Sunday, there are tents for food, tents for beer and Irish whiskey, a tent for folks selling their wares (from Irish-themed baby clothing to Irish jewelry and hats), and a cultural tent featuring wee little Irish step-dancers as well as info on Irish history and culture. And for those of you with kids, there are carnival rides, games, and vendors selling fried dough and cotton candy. Everything happens outdoors, which in my book is another plus.

It's just $10 per ticket ($9 for seniors, and free for kids under 10 years old), and the money helps support the local Irish American Home Society. Once inside the gates, you'll purchase tickets for food and liquor.

Food options include fish and chips (vinegar and salt are readily available on the side tables - yum), corned beef on rye sandwiches, plus burgers, dogs, chicken, clam strips, and a couple of other simple pub food-like options.

The beer tent's where you want to be. They've got an assortment of liquors and mixers, plus plenty of Jameson Irish whiskey and draft beer. On tap are Guinness, Smithwick's, Harp, Blue Moon, Sam's Summer, and a slew of other beers - along with my ultimate favorite: Magner's Irish Cider. It's my first order of business upon arriving, year after year. Deeelish, I say.

Of course, this is the so-called music festival, after all. So if you're up for some dancing - sober or not - you'll have a blast here. We're not just talking bagpipes, either. Lots of fabulous folk music, and depending on the band you'll hear anything from mandolin to Irish accordion and even electric fiddle. AND it's danceable, I swear - especially after a Magner's or two.

Friendly people, fun food, great music, and Magner's on tap. And last but not least, men in kilts. Go!

P.S. Be prepared to use the Porta Potty's!

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