The co-presidents of the Miramichi Irish Festival say the festival needed a change, but say they were a bit nervous to take the festival outdoors.
“For years this festival was the place to be. Hotels were full, campgrounds were full, and people were sleeping on couches of people they met on the festival floor. It was that well attended,” said Paddy Quinn.
Quinn is right. In the festival’s hay day, people treated it as a celebration of their heritage, as well as a home-coming. People scheduled their vacations around the event, and the festival drew people from all over the world.
Like all festivals, this one needed a change to keep people interested in attending. “I’ll admit,” said Quinn, “I was was one of those people who was scared of change. But we’re going to roll the dice on this one.”
Quinn pointed to the musical festival held in Fredericton every fall. “It is all outdoors, over several city blocks, at a time of year when it can be cold and rainy, but that festival is very successful, and there’s no reason we can’t make it work here too.”
It looks like the biggest gamble is going to go in the festival’s favour – the weather. The weekend looks good, and the organizers are hoping that the daytime schedule of free activities and local music will draw families from all over to come to Miramichi and enjoy themselves alongside the beautiful river. The evenings will be paid attendance, with a slate of great musical acts like the Durty Nellys and the Town Pants from Vancouver.
Another event during the festival that the organizers are looking forward to is the “intimate evening with Ennis” at St. Michael’s Basilica. Ennis Sisters are from St. John’s, and thrill audiences wherever they go. The concert starts at 7pm at St. Michaels on Saturday night. “The basilica should be an awesome setting for this concert,” said co-president, Chopper Robinson.
When asked what people are missing, when they don’t come to the festival, Robinson said there is a community spirit that everyone can share in. That’s what they miss by not coming.
“Not only is this festival a celebration of our heritage, but it is a home-coming of sorts, with so many people working away from home who make the effort to come back to town for this event. The community spirit is shared among locals and visitors alike.”
Robinson himself works in Alberta, and has been working long distance with Quinn to bring the event together. “There are also a lot of committee members with years of experience with this festival who know what works and what doesn’t work. They event couldn’t take place without them.”
Quinn added that the parade, that has been a part of the festival almost since the beginning, is an example of the spirit in the community. Quinn urges anyone take up a coat of arms and take part in the parade.