The culture and history of the Emerald Island will be celebrated this weekend in Cape Coral.
The 10th Annual Irish Festival will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 a.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Bavarian Gardens at the German American Social Club. Hosted by the Cape Coral Irish American Club, the event features live music, dozens of vendors and activities for the children.
Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for students, with a school ID; children 12 and under are free.
Also on Sunday, an outdoor Catholic Mass will be held at 11 a.m. It is open to the public.
"We've grown to 10 years," Anne Carney, a spokeswoman for the group, said. "It started very small."
Nearly a dozen acts will work between two stages, with back-to-back performances on both days.
"Nonstop music - they can sit and enjoy it, or stroll around," she said of festival-goers.
The headliner is the Screaming Orphans, a group of four sisters from Donegal County in Ireland.
"They perform Irish music that's very familiar, with an edgy rock beat that's very inviting," Carney said. "It blends the old with the new."
If You Go
What: 10th Annual Irish Festival
Who: Cape Coral Irish American Club
When: Saturday, March 1, from 11 a.m. to 10 a.m. and Sunday, March 2, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: German American Social Club, 2101 W. Pine Island Road.
Known as the "darlings" of the event, the sisters will perform last on Saturday and Sunday.
"They're fairly popular in Southwest Florida," she said.
Besides the Screaming Orphans, there will be a variety of local and out-of-town acts.
The Lee County Pipes & Drums plays festive Irish and Celtic tunes, while Southwest Florida's Celtic Stew is known for its "lively mix." West of Galway, coming out of Naples, is also on the lineup.
"They're an American band and they're more traditional," Carney said.
Also taking the stage will be the Dublin City Ramblers, a ballad and folk group from Ireland. Mother-and-son team Kathy and Andreas Durkin also hail from the Emerald Isle, as well as Brendan Nolan.
"He's among the more traditional Celtic-Irish performers," she said of Nolan.
Two local dance schools, the Kellyn Celtic Arts Irish Dance Academy and the Tir Na Nog - which means "forever young" - Academy of Irish Dance, will showcase their step dancing skills.
"It's the origin of square dance that was brought to the United States," Carney said.
Attendees can also dance to traditional folk music played by Irish accordion player Brian Bonner.
"We have a mix," she said of the scheduled performers.
About 50 on-site vendors will offer knitwear, artwork, books, musical instruments and more.
"There's a wonderful mix of Irish souvenir things," Carney said, noting that the festival has more vendors this year than in previous years. "It's bigger and better this year."
Some local businesses will also have tables set up.
Families are encouraged to check out the children's activities tent, where there is face painting and adult-supervised games and arts and crafts projects for ages 3 to 13. The activities are free.
"We bring in professional face painters," she said. "They do a wonderful job with the kids' faces."
For those feeling the Irish luck, there are 50/50 raffles and a chance to win a trip for two to Ireland. Worth $2,500, the trip includes airfare and a week's stay at a bed and breakfast and a car rental.
The winner of the trip can choose their location and dates of stay.
Also up for grabs will be "baskets of cheer," made up of Irish goodies and alcohol.
"They raffles are a lot of fun," Carney said. "People just love those things."
The festival fare will consist of favorites like shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage.
"The food is made fresh by the chef at the German American Social Club," she said.
There will be lighter items available, along with beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages.
"People like the corned beef and cabbage dinners especially," Carney said.
While an estimated 7,500 people turned out for last year's festival, 2012 drew more than 10,000.
"Last year, the weather really threw us for a loop," she said, adding that it was cold.
Organizers are expecting this year's attendance to at least hit 10,000 again.
"It sounds like its going to be great weather," Carney said. "We're going to break the record this year, I know we are - I bet you there'll be more than 10,000 people."
A portion of the proceeds raised from the festival go toward charity.
"There are small local charities that we think sometimes get overlooked," she said.
Some of the recipients include the local ALS Foundation, the Organ Transplant Recipients of Southwest Florida and the Cape Coral Caring Center, among others.
"The other way we use them is that we have a scholarship fund," Carney said.
This year, the Cape Coral Irish American Club awarded four scholarships.
Eligible students can be grade school to college aged and must be "students of Irish culture." For example, this year's scholarship recipients are all Irish step dancers, according to Carney.
She encouraged the public to come for the festivities this weekend.
"It's affordable, and it's nonstop fun," Carney said.
Free parking is available on site.
For more information, visit online at: www.capecoralirishamericanclub.org.
The German American Social Club is at 2101 W. Pine Island Road.