A few weekends ago, Nate and I ventured out to Irish Fest on Harriet Island in St. Paul. It was a gorgeous summer day and we didn’t want to waste it inside. Since 2001, beautiful Harriet Island Regional Park in downtown St. Paul has hosted Irish Fair of Minnesota. The festival is recognized as one of the most family-friendly events in the Twin Cities, one of the most authentic Irish festivals nationwide. They offer authentic Irish heritage opportunities such as: step dance, traditional group dance, gaelic sports, Celtic marketplace, cultural displays, native Irish dogs, traditional tea room, Irish food and drink as well as several local and international bands. We were amazed at how large this celebration is. There were many tents set up all over the grounds. They offered T-shirts, food, bakery, and of course, lots and lots of Pub tents.
Irish in Saint Paul, Minnesota have played an integral part in the founding and the growth of the city. The first Irish to settle in Saint Paul were three soldiers from Fort Snelling who were natives of Ireland. They became the first settlers in the area of downtown Saint Paul. Helped by Archbishop John Ireland, thousands of Irish emigrated from Ireland and Eastern cities in the United States to Minnesota; the majority settled in Saint Paul.
Other activities the festival had to offer, was listening to music on one of the three stages, having a bit of Irish food and drink, learning about the many engaging aspects of Irish culture, taking part in a workshop on how to play the Irish bodhran, watching the incredible Irish dancers, and shopping around through the Irish marketplace.
Nate was determined to find a cool Irish hat. He had a couple in mind and tried on a few until he found the perfect one. A Guinness original. Its a good looking hat and best of all, he actually enjoys that Irish beer. We also had to try some Irish food, so we both enjoyed a Reuben sandwich and it was delicious!
As we walked around the grounds, we came across the Cultural Building. Inside was a Irish Tea Room and some hands-on learning of the art of basket weaving. We didn’t partake in either of these events, but I did watch this girl work on her basket for a little bit. It didn’t look easy. No tea for me either…my friend Sheri knows I’m not a fan of English tea (she made me try it), and I assumed Irish tea was similar. No milk in my tea please. Yuck!
Our favorite event of the day was seeing the Irish Wolfhounds. They had a area sectioned off for Irish dogs and we could walk around and pet them and learn about these dogs from their owners. I also did a little Googling of them as well.
The Irish Wolfhound is a breed of domestic dog, specifically a very large sighthound from Ireland. The name originates from its purpose—wolf hunting with dogs—rather than from its appearance. The breed is very old; there are suggestions it may have been brought to Ireland as early as 7000 BC.
The owners say they make wonderful pets. Nate & I said they are “gentle giants.” Their fur was corse, but they loved to be petted and are very sweet. Reminded us a little of Jazz and her temperament. Kind of laid back and timid. I just think they are so cute but can’t imagine something this large roaming around inside my house!
While we were watching these dogs, we found that they don’t particularly enjoy the sunshine. As soon as the sun came out, this owner immediately started heading for his tent. When people weren’t moving out of his way, he said…”No, seriously…move!” That was odd but I wouldn’t stand in his way to find out what happens if that dog stays in the sun.
Another dog that caught our eye was the American Water Spaniel. Nate couldn’t help but get down to this dogs level and pet him. He had such a cute face and was looking right at him. After Googling this dog, I now know why Nate was attracted to him…this is the state dog of Wisconsin! I wonder if Nate knows this? If not, he will after reading this blog.
Developed in the United States, the American Water Spaniel is the Wisconsin state dog. The breed originated in the areas along the Fox River and its tributary the Wolf River during the early 19th century. Hunters needed a dog that could work on both land and water, a versatile hunter skilled at bringing in a variety of game. Hunters also wanted a hunting dog compact enough to be transported in a small skiff, one that was able to withstand Wisconsin’s cold water temperatures. It has a thick curly coat that protects it from the cold temperatures of the water and winters and it’s coat is water resistant. Again, such a sweet dog and his fur was soft and curly. Adorable!
Dogs are great, but the people watching was fantastic! So many men in kilts and many were tattooed all over and you knew they rode here on their Harley’s, so don’t mess with them and be sure to tell them they look good in a skirt. (I didn’t dare take a picture..too scared) ha! But I did google it and this is exactly what we saw.
There were other’s in kilts as well. Ranging from little babies all the way up to the elderly. It was neat to see them getting into their heritage and participating in it all.
We ended our afternoon by taking in the music. We hung out by the main stage and listened to a band called High Kings. They are actually from Ireland and seemed to really be enjoying our Minnesota Fest. The next weekend, they were on to Pittsburgh, so they do lots of entertaining and traveling all summer long. Fun to hear their accents and enjoyed their music. There was also a stage right along the river, but someone was playing there later on, so we didn’t get to experience that.
Last year we went to Greek fest, this year Irish fest, and now we’ll have to experience German fest and Norwegian fest at some point. It sure is a fun way to spend an afternoon while learning a few things as well.