The 6th Annual Irish Festival promises to be a weekend of music, food and fun for all ages.
The event, sponsored by the Cape Coral Irish American Club, will be held from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, March 6, and 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 7, in the Bavarian Gardens at the German-American Social Club, located at 2101 W. Pine Island Road. A Roman Catholic Mass will be held outdoors at 11 a.m. March 7.
Admission to the festival is $5 for adults, and $3 for students with a school identification. Children under 12 are free. Parking is free. No coolers or pets will be allowed at the event.
Mary O'Neill, secretary of the Cape Coral Irish American Club, urged everyone to attend "to really get a taste of the Irish culture."
Thirteen acts will perform over the weekend.
The entertainers are Cahal Dunne of Cork, Ireland; Kathy and Andreas Durkin of Donegal, Ireland; Sean Fleming; Irish Cream; West of Galway Band; Tommy Barr; Brian Bonner; Jim McCarthy and Dave Buescher; and Harry Boyle. The Lee County Pipes & Drums band is also scheduled to perform.
What: 6th Annual Irish Festival
sponsored by the Cape Coral Irish American Club
When: Sat., March 6, 11 a.m.- 10 p.m.
Sun., March 7, 11 a.m.- 7:30 p.m.
Where: German-American Social Club
2101 W. Pine Island Road
"It's continuous Irish music," O'Neill said.
According to O'Neill, Dunne is a well-known entertainer who has previously held concerts in the Cape but has not performed at the Irish Festival.
"He's very entertaining. He's a great singer. He plays piano, he plays many instruments and he's a comedian," she said. "We were very fortunate to get him."
During a telephone interview Friday, Dunne said he has been performing in the Cape over the last 12 years. A resident of Pittsburgh, he comes down to Florida in January, February and March to perform at various events, including one at Cape Coral High School, which he participates in every couple of years.
Dunne said his original background is the classics, then he got into rock 'n' roll and later attended college for music and studied traditional Irish music.
For the annual Cape festival, Dunne will don a green tuxedo in honor of St. Patrick's Day and he will perform with a white, baby grand piano. He said the crowd can expect classic Irish songs, along with some newer contemporary tunes, intermingled with a few jokes and lightheartedness.
Dunne added that he will throw in a few classical pieces as well.
"If they think it'll be all Irish from me, it won't be, so I think they'll enjoy it," he said.
"It'll be just a bit of fun and a bit of innocent nonsense for an afternoon," Dunne added. "Even if you're not Irish, you'll enjoy it."
As for why he chose to participate in this year's festival for the first time, Dunne pointed to his heritage and the style of event.
"Well, it's an Irish festival. I'm Irish," he said. "It's a little bit more informal than the concert and I enjoy that. I enjoy meeting the people that come and a lot of them are friends of mine."
Kathy and Andreas Durkin is a mother-son duo, O'Neill explained. Kathy plays the guitar and Andreas plays the keyboard. Kathy has been performing in the local area for 10-15 years. The duo has performed at the festival before.
"I think they have quite an appeal to the people here," she said. "They have their own draw. They're a crowd-pleaser."
Sean Fleming has performed across the United States, especially in the New England area, but this is his first time at the annual Cape event, O'Neill said.
"We consider Sean Fleming a headliner," she said.
Also part of the entertainment lineup are three local dance groups. They are the Kellyn Celtic Arts Irish Dance Academy of Fort Myers and Naples, the Tir Na Nog Irish Dancers of Naples and the Irish Dance Academy of Sarasota.
Kimberly Knaub is co-owner of the Kellyn Celtic Arts Irish Dance Academy with her daughter, Jaime Knaub TCRE. According to Knaub, her daughter has been dancing since the inception of the annual festival and the dance school has participated in the event every year.
"It's very important for us to represent the dance, which is a huge part of the Irish culture," she said. "We feel very, very strongly that our children, who are not all of Irish ancestry, understand what it's all about and get out there and show everybody how it's done and why it's done."
According to Knaub, the British passed laws when they conquered the Irish that made it illegal to do anything that was Irish, including speaking in Gaelic, singing Irish songs and dancing Irish dances. But the Irish continued teaching the younger generations their ways in secret.
"The dance was kept as a way to hold onto everything," she said.
In Irish step dancing, the face is kept expressionless and the hands are held down at one's side. All the movement comes from the feet, Knaub explained, so if someone were to pass by a window and see inside, it would not look like those inside were doing anything illegal.
"There's not a lot of bouncing up and down if it's done correctly," she said. "It really does not look as though we are really doing anything at all."
Knaub called the dancing "exceptionally dynamic" and the music "infectious."
"It makes you want to tap your feet," she said. "The dancing is done with arms at the side so it's very, very furious. It's not like any other dance form out there. It's containment and release."
"It's very thrilling when done properly," Knaub added.
She said the festival is a "wonderful event" and "a lot of fun."
"It's important that people realize that beyond all the fun and enjoyment, this is a very important part of our past," Knaub added. "Come see, come enjoy, come dance with us."
O'Neill also urged the public to come out and experience the Irish culture.
"The dancers are always an appeal," she said.
"I think it's a very well-rounded group of performers," O'Neill added.
Besides enjoying the entertainers, festival attendees can visit a booth being manned by the Lee County Genealogical Society to learn about their own Irish roots. According to O'Neill, society members will search people's lineages for free.
"And they'll give you a lot of handouts," she said. "It's a good resource to go to."
The event will feature Irish food, including corned beef and cabbage, corned beef sandwiches and shepard's pie, along with other items like Italian sausage and hot dogs, potato pancakes and desserts like ice cream and cake. There will be water, soda and alcoholic beverages available for purchase.
The beer selection will include Starr Hill, a stout; Bass; Kelly's Irish Hard Cider; Bud and Bud Light; Redhook, a pale ale; and Red Hurricane, a pilsner. There will be a selection of wines to choose from as well.
"We won't have any green beer, but they will make Black and Tans," O'Neill said.
Vendors will also be a draw at the annual festival. According to O'Neill, more than 30 vendors had signed up to participate as of Thursday afternoon. They are still taking vendors. Those interested can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
"So we more than doubled our totaled from last year," she said.
"We have quite a few Irish vendors selling a variety of things," O'Neill added. "Anything from handcrafted jewelry - a lot of clothing - there's one that's going to be doing family names on anything, books, framed art."
She said another vendor sells Irish "wares, gifts, crosses and Public House Jeans." There will be Welsh Cookies, silver, pewter and porecleain items, perfumes and soaps, imported good from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, china, stoneware and crystal.
"We have an area that will be a free children's area," O'Neill said. "It will be arts and crafts, games."
There will also be a children's amusement area that offers rides including a train, bungy jump and rollercoaster, among other things.
"And that will be at a reasonable price," she said.
During the festival, raffle tickets will be sold for $5 per ticket. The prize is a trip to Ireland including air fare for two people, accommodations at B&B's and a car rental.