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Irish festival celebrates culture, music and art

Enter Haggis headlines Irish American Heritage Festival Sunday.

Enter the Haggis headlines the Irish American Heritage Festival on Sunday.

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When: Through Sunday

Where: Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox

Tickets: $15; kids 12 and under free

Info: (773) 282-7035;

Updated: August 14, 2013 6:07AM

You can learn all about the Irish and their culture at the Irish American Heritage Festival, held on the grounds of the Irish American Heritage Center this weekend. The event features more than 100 performers on five stages.

Other competitions include the Men in Kilts contest, the Irish Soda Bread contest, a freckle contest and the Sham-Rock Stars singing contest for kids. Irish wares and foods also will be for sale throughout the festival, and step dancers from several area schools will perform.

“It’s a complete Irish experience — food, music, drink, bands, Irish dance,” said John Gorski of St. Charles, president of the Irish American Heritage Center. “One of the things we do best at Irish Fest is to appeal to all age groups. We work very hard to make sure it’s not just an adult entertainment event but an experience for children and young adults as well, and that helps us keep the Irish tradition and Irish-American culture experience alive.”

Headlining acts on the main stage include The Killdares on Saturday and Enter the Haggis on Sunday. Several acts, like the Dublin City Ramblers, are from Ireland. Chicago is well-represented on the entertainment stages via act such as The Larkin and Moran Brothers.

“We also work it so that we have time and stage devoted to local and regional groups, because we understand that the Chicago community is where we operate,” he said. “We try to bring in Chicago talent and give them main stage exposure.”

Organizers this year made a commitment to going green in more ways than the obvious, Gorski said. One effort includes switching to reusable cups.

“It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s cups that we don’t have to put in a landfill,” he said. “That’s a major move for us. We go through tens of thousands of cups. If we can, we want to avoid that waste and treat our environment a little better.”

What’s an Irish festival without some libations? For those needs, head to the Fine Spirits Tasting Tent, where you can taste whiskey, beer and mead. If it’s culture you crave, check out the Irish Tea Room, where adults can cool off while listening to traditional music and enjoying a proper cup of tea. There’s also language lessons and art and museum exhibits.

Additionally, families can enjoy activities like a performance by the Wiggleworms from the Old Town School of Folk Music or a demonstration by Great Lakes Wolf Hound Association.

Annie Alleman is a local free-lance writer.

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