Spirited lively music, corned beef and cabbage, and quick-paced step dancing can all be found this weekend in Cape Coral at the ninth annual Irish Festival.
The event, hosted by the Cape Coral Irish American Club, will run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Bavarian Gardens, at the German American Social Club. Sunday will open with a Catholic Mass.
Club member Anne Carney explained that the festival was started to offer the community something to do and educate the public on Irish culture.
"It began to grow from there," she said.
Approximately 10,000 people total attended last year.
"We're looking for that again this year," she said.
If You Go
Who: Cape Coral Irish American Club
What: 9th Annual Irish Festival
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday,
11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: German American Social Club, 2101 S.W. Pine Island Road
Admission: $6 for adults and $3 for students with ID,12 and under are free
Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for students with a school ID.
Children 12 years of age and under are free.
Each year, the club has attempted to improve on the event.
"We've invested more in the performers," Carney said.
The headlining acts this year are the Screaming Orphans and New York Tenors member Andy Cooney. They both perform today and Sunday.
"The one who helped us grow pretty significantly were the Screaming Orphans," she said, adding that they have played the festival a few times.
The Ireland-based group performs traditional Irish music.
"They deliver it with a rock pop sound, a spirited lively sound," Carney said.
She called adding Cooney to the list this year "stepping up the ante." He is well-known as one of the three members of the New York-based group.
"He's very familiar with the northeastern crowd," Carney said.
"I understand him to be quite a showman," she added.
The Screaming Orphans will take the stage at 6 p.m. today, followed by Cooney at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, Cooney will perform at 2:30 p.m. and the
Screaming Orphans will follow later in the day, performing at 5:30 p.m.
"This is going to be nonstop live music," Carney said.
"It lifts your spirits and makes you feel good," she added.
Also included in the weekend lineup are Kathy and Andreas Durkin, Brian Bonner, Ian Barksdale's Wolfhounds, Harry Boyle, and West of Galway.
Like the Screaming Orphans, the Durkins are from the Emerald Isle.
"They're very popular in Ireland," Carney said.
Bonner is an Irish-American accordion player and singer, while the Wolfhounds are known in the local communities for their music.
"Ian Barksdale is a very significant force in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers scene," she said.
Boyle plays Irish music and "mixes it up a little bit."
"He's a fun entertainer," Carney said, adding that Boyle is local.
West of Galway is also locally based, coming from Naples.
Lee County Pipes and Drums will perform at the event, along with the Kellyn Celtic Arts Irish Dance Academy and Tir na Nog Academy of Irish Dance.
"We do have Irish step dancing schools," she said. "The kids do an incredible job. Both of those schools have lots of awards under their belt."
The club has also expanded the children's area, dubbed Leprechaun Lane.
"It used to be tables just in the festival grounds, but this year we have a large tent," Carney said.
For ages 3-13, the area has adult supervision. It features face painting by the Cape Coral Shrine Club, clowns creating balloon animals and doing tricks, and age-appropriate arts and crafts projects, such as making bead jewelry.
For older children, there will be basketball hoops and a bean bag toss.
"More people were coming to it and more people were bringing their children to that area," she said of why the club expanded Leprechaun Lane.
Attendees will find Irish fare at the festival, like corned beef and cabbage and potato pancakes. Budweiser products will be available for purchase.
"We try to keep the food reasonably priced," Carney said.
Wrist bands are available for free O'Doul's for designated drivers. Those serving as their group's "DD" can ask about the program at the gates.
"We want people to be safe," she said.
Over the weekend, the club will raffle off a trip for two to Ireland. At a value of $2,5000, the trip includes airfare, housing and a rental car for a week.
"It's a little package," Carney said. "The winner can choose to go into Shannon or Dublin airport, and they choose when they want to go."
Raffle tickets are $5 a piece.
"We have done it before and it's very very popular," she said.
There will also be a few 50/50 raffles and raffle tickets for "baskets of cheer." Carney explained that the baskets mostly contain alcohol bottles.
"Give them a start for St. Patrick's Day," she said.
The event serves as the club's main fund-raiser for the year.
"Our belief is to give back the community," Carney said. "We reserve funds for a scholarship fund."
This year, the club provided $500 scholarships to three students.
Proceeds from the festival also support local organizations.
"We give to the (Cape Coral) Caring Center," she said. "We support the Organ Transplant Recipients of Southwest Florida and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the USA Fund for U.S. Soldiers Overseas."
Other recipients include Cape Coral Hope Hospice, the ALS Association's Florida Chapter and the Cape Coral Special Populations, among others.
The German American Social Club is at 2101 S.W. Pine Island Road.