WHEN IR­ISH EYES ARE SMIL­ING

Thou­sands cel­e­brate her­itage at event

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Lau­ren Hal­li­gan lhal­li­gan@dig­i­tal­first­media.com @Lau­renTheRecord on Twit­ter

Thou­sands of event-go­ers cel­e­brated their Ir­ish her­itage on Satur­day at the Ir­ish 2000 mu­sic and arts fes­ti­val.

The event was held all day on Satur­day at the Saratoga County Fair­grounds in Ball­ston Spa.

At­ten­dees had the op­por­tu­nity to hear Ir­ish mu­sic, watch Ir­ish dance, eat Ir­ish food, and drink Ir­ish beer at the fes­ti­val.

Two stages, a rock stage and an Ir­ish pub stage, fea­tured live en­ter­tain­ment through­out the day and evening. Some of the most pop­u­lar acts to per­form this year were Ireland’s own Scream­ing Or­phans, lo­cals Hair of the Dog and head­liner Off Kil­ter, which re­cently fin­ished a long stand­ing gig at Dis­ney World in Or­lando, Fla.

Es­tab­lished in 1996, Ir­ish 2000 is one of the re­gion’s largest Ir­ish fes­ti­vals. It is known for of­fer­ing a unique lineup of Ir­ish mu­sic, in­clud­ing ev­ery­thing from Celtic punk and jam mu­sic to tra­di­tional bag­pipes songs and ev­ery­thing in be­tween.

More than two decades in, the event or­ga­niz­ers’ aim re­mains to cre­ate a fam­i­lyfriendly at­mos­phere where peo­ple can en­joy Ir­ish cul­ture and Ir­ish mu­sic, said Brian Nel­li­gan, pres­i­dent of the non­profit Ir­ish Mu­sic and Arts Fes­ti­val Inc. Part of the pur­pose be­hind Ir­ish 2000 is to ex­pose younger gen­er­a­tions to tra­di­tional Ir­ish cul­ture, he said. To keep them thor­oughly en­ter­tained, a Celtic Kids area at Ir­ish 2000 fea­tures rides and games just for chil­dren.

Nel­li­gan has been in­volved with the fes­ti­val since its 1996, when his brother Matt Nel­li­gan and Jim Shaugh­nessy co­founded it.

While other Ir­ish fes­ti­vals ex­isted else­where, they all thought there should be one in the Cap­i­tal Re­gion.

“With all of the Ir­ish pop­u­la­tion that we have, we said this would be the per­fect thing to do,” Brian re­called.

The first Ir­ish 2000 was held at a park in Colonie, and then venues changed as the event grew and started at­tract­ing more and more at­ten­dees. “Then it kept ex­pand­ing to where we’re now here,” Brian said as fes­ti­val-

go­ers flooded in through the main fair­ground gates.

Look­ing ahead, Brian said the hope is that Ir­ish 2000 can con­tinue bring­ing aware­ness to Ir­ish cul­ture in a fun fes­ti­val set­ting for many years to come.

Re­turn­ing at­ten­dees Ali­son and Will McCarthy trav­eled north from Vir­ginia to join their Derek and Lorene Reynolds at Ir­ish 2000 for their fifth year in a row. It’s a chance for all of them to hear Ir­ish mu­sic, and for the men to bust out their kilts once a year.

“It’s nice be­cause all of the Ir­ish peo­ple get to­gether,” Ali­son said af­ter lis­ten­ing to the Sch­enec­tady Pipe Band on the Ti­mothy J. Nel­li­gan & Patricia McSweeney Me­mo­rial Ir­ish Pub Stage at the fes­ti­val. “The ca­ma­raderie is nice.”

PHOTOS BY LAU­REN HAL­LI­GAN — LHAL­LI­GAN@DIG­I­TAL­FIRST­MEDIA.COM

Bag­pipers per­form at Ir­ish 2000, a mu­sic and arts fes­ti­val held on Satur­day at the Saratoga County Fair­grounds in Ball­ston Spa.

Emish per­forms at Ir­ish 2000 at the Saratoga County Fair­grounds in Ball­ston Spa.

LAU­REN HAL­LI­GAN — LHAL­LI­GAN@DIG­I­TAL­FIRST­MEDIA.COM

Vis­i­tors or­dered drinks at an Ir­ish beer truck at Ir­ish 2000, a mu­sic and arts fes­ti­val held on Satur­day at the Saratoga County Fair­grounds in Ball­ston Spa.

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