11th Annual Irish Festival

Caleb-Michael Files

Complete with green fountains, an abundance of kilts and lines of food trucks, Crown Center kicked off the 11th annual Irish festival Friday Aug. 30.

Since 2003, the Kansas City Irish Fest and Crown Center have partnered up and brought culture, live music and authentic Celtic merchandise to the streets of downtown Kansas City.

The festival featured performances from more than 30 bands on seven stages. With a range of performances from The Elders, Damian Dempsey and the Step Crew, more than 100,000 spectators gathered to absorb the culture of the festival. According to the 2011 annual report, consumers spent over $300,000 on alcoholic beverages. The amount spent in 2013 is likely to have increased.
The Irish festival also housed a Culture Cafe complete with in-house geology experts.

Originally known as the Heritage stage, the Cafe was renamed and transformed into an activity center with arts and cultural operations.  Spectators are able to receive an authentic taste of Irish lifestyle and a chance to partake in group dancing and Gaelic speaking lessons.

In addition to learning the authentic Irish way of living, the Festival introduced several signature contests, such as a hat knitting contest, baking contest and brewing contest. Several raffles were also drawn, which included a round trip airfare for two to Ireland.

Ed Follis, founding member and also a member of the board of directors, has been with the festival since the beginning.  

“The first year of the Kansas City Irish Fest was down at the river front at Berkley River Park and it got rained out, we had about 11 inches of rain,” Follis said. “The next year Crown Center came to us asking if we wanted to come there and it’s been a phenomenal partnership ever since.”

Boulevard Brewery contributed to the festival with an entire stage devoted to classic Irish harmonies, accompanied by a Boulevard original Irish Ale.  
Vendors cover the streets in green with jewelry, apparel and unusual decorations.

“It’s great because we feature music, food, and most importantly, culture, with the culture cafe,” Follis said.

A tribute to the men and women of the Fire Department was featured as a special addition to this year’s Irish fest.  With a majority of firefighters accustomed to rough work and intense labor, Kansas City seized the opportunity to praise their Irish ancestors.  Vintage fire trucks and buildings were set among a sea of green. 

“My favorite part is the Culture Cafe, which includes live Skyping to Ireland,” Follis said.

After three days of eating, dancing and drinking, the festival concluded with a traditional Catholic Mass. According to their website, this is Kansas City’s largest outdoor Catholic Mass.