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Irish smiling at Gaelic Park’s fest

CarmelKucht3 Chicago enjoys ride Irish Fest this week end Gaelic Park Sunday May 25th 2014 Oak Forest. | Gary Middendorf/for

Carmela Kuchta, 3, of Chicago enjoys a ride at the Irish Fest this week end at Gaelic Park, Sunday, May 25th, 2014 in Oak Forest. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 27, 2014 6:38AM



The events at Gaelic Park’s Irish Fest are as dynamic as the people. With Monday filled with activities, there is plenty for just about anyone.

Sure, there are scores of music. With acts rotating nearly every 45 minutes on six stages, the entertainment lineup is packed with options. However, what gives this fest character is the off-stage extras.

A 28-foot-long potato is one example. Called “The Big Idaho Potato Truck,” it travels from Boise, Idaho, on a flatbed trailer. It is 12 feet tall and nearly as wide. People kept wanting to touch it Saturday, and get a smashing photo op.

A lassie with long legs is another featured attraction. Decked out in a blonde wig, a shiny green skirt, and oh, yes, stilts, this Irish girl is hard to miss. She glided along, waving, and dancing with children, and giving people more photo ops.

A stroll through the vendor tent was just as entertaining. Grown men — indeed, they were married men — were being fitted with kilts. Chris Beyer and Patrick Jockel brought their shop, American Highlander, from New Jersey to sell kilts to men, women and children. Bob Charnas, of Darien, chose a green and yellow plaid, known as the Irish National tartan.

“But my mother was a Higgins, and I married a Griffin,” he said.

Charnas was among many who declared their Irish ancestry at the fest. No matter the number of generations, there is a deep-seeded connection to the Irish roots that makes the fest a family.

Noreen and Kean Ryan had just purchased a shirt and some jewelry from a Michigan vendor, Always Irish. They raved about Gaelic Park’s Irish Fest, explaining that they travel from the northwest side to attend year after year. Noreen’s father is from Lismore, Waterford. Coming to Gaelic Park brings her closer to “home,” as she describes it.

“If I keep talking, I’m going to cry,” she said.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum was silliness and laughter — even for something as uneventful as waiting in the “cue” at the South Side favorite, Winston’s Market, a patient customer, Doug Fulmer, joked.

“I put the ‘fun’ in funnel cake,” said Fulmer, of Homer Glen.

Instead of being at home Saturday night watching the Blackhawks game, Fulmer recorded it so he could go to the fest. He is a member of Gaelic Park and attends many of the activities.

“Only for Irish Fest would I miss it (watching the Hawks game live),” he said.

Perhaps the Stanley Cup playoff game kept people at home Saturday, but if the wine bar was any indication, Friday was a great success.

“We are very busy,” said Peggy Murphy, who works the wine bar. “(Friday) we did double than last year.”

On Monday, gates open at 1 p.m., with a feis dancing competition from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Admission is $10 until 2 p.m. and then $15 for adults. Seniors and kids 4 to 12 are $12. Admission includes free parking, all entertainment and free unlimited carnival rides.

There is a memorial salute at 3 p.m. on all stages.



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