Festival Offers Taste of 'Home' for Local Irish
Fairfax City hosts a display of traditional Irish music, song and dance.
Old Town Fairfax got a taste of traditional Irish song and dance Saturday at the 15th annual Irish Folk Festival.
Organized by the Fairfax branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the festival marked a celebration of Fairfax's local Irish community.
"The music is the nucleus of that," said Jesse Winch, a CCE member.
The music was the most visible part of the festival. CCE vice chair Maddy O'Neill-Dean said that the festival's main purpose is to expose the rest of Fairfax to real, traditional Irish music.
"The music that is indigenous to Ireland," that is.
O'Neill-Dean made a point to differentiate between the festival's music and what might be at a St. Patrick's Day parade.
"That's what we don't do," she said, pointing at someone wearing an Irish novelty hat.
That traditional music included guitars, fiddles, flutes, drums and step dancers from the Maple Irish Dance Academy. All afternoon these musicians and their music filled local Irish pub Auld Shebeen as well as surrounding restaurants like the local Panera Bread, The Old Fire Station and Woody's Ice Cream.
Auld Shebeen owner Mick Boyle said that even though this isn't the biggest Irish festival in the area, it saves the Fairfax City Irish community a trip to Arlington County and other festival locations.
Although this festival has been around for 15 years, this is only its second year in Old Town Fairfax–and the first year CCE was able to hold it outside throughout the town. Last year, rain forced the festival mostly to the confines of Auld Shebeen. Before, the CCE held the festival at Frying Pan Park in Herndon.
The people who run the festival do it out of their deep roots with Irish music. O'Neill-Dean–a guitarist with the group Mad for the Road, left the music scene years ago after growing up in New York City's Irish community and coming to Fairfax.
"It's coming home for me," she said.
CCE is the biggest single non-profit organization for preserving traditional Irish art and culture like the music and the Irish language. Started in 1951, it's based in Dublin but has branches in every corner of the globe from Ireland itself and throughout North America, Europe and Asia.