The Irish Festival runs on a weekend in September, which unfortunately happened to be a weekend I was working. However, the website assured us that things were hopping until midnight, so there was plenty of time for us to get down there to see the sights. (Or so we thought.)
First of all, the Irish Festival is held at the Sandcastle Riverplex. If you’re like me, and haven’t been to Sandcastle since you were in high school, it’s a bit of a challenge to get to the Riverplex. You have to maneuver some roads that, while sketchy during the day, are downright zombie-movie terrifying in the dark. There were several turns where I thought for sure we’d reached a dead end in an old steel mill, and would have to turn around. But each time, there was a small Sandcastle sign beckoning us to go on.
And as if that’s not creepy enough, once you park your car, you have to walk through the off-season, not-functioning waterpark itself. Abandoned amusement parks and water parks are pretty high up there on my Creepiest Things of All Time list, somewhere between Jack Nicholson in The Shining and the knowledge that people occasionally eat spiders in their sleep. ::shudder:: I know Sandcastle is not abandoned, and will be up and running as soon as Memorial Day 2012 arrives, but walking underneath all the shut down slides and past the deflated water tubes gave me the willies.
But at last, we arrived at the Irish Festival! Tickets are cheaper if you buy them in advance, but apparently, getting there after 9pm allows you to get in for the discounted ‘senior citizen’ rate, so it wasn’t too bad of a deal.
Then you have to show your ID to a gentleman who asks a whole lot of questions to make sure you’re who you say you are, and that allows you the privilege of purchasing beer.
Our friends who are stationed in Panama as FSOs were home in the States for the weekend, so they came with us, and I have to laugh at how much they were loving the ability to drink Guinness. Apparently, dark beers are very hard to come by in Panama, and they had to take advantage while they were up here!
(Yes, I actually drank it! Well, some of it. I may have had to tag out, somewhere around the middle, but I like to think I was just economical, and saved Michael the $6 of buying another beer for himself.)
They were alright, certainly more enjoyable than the Dropkick Murphys, which are the only other Irish band that I know (besides, of course, U2, who are exempt from this discussion because of their otherworldly fabulousness). They won me over a bit with their song about punching Russell Crowe in the head. You know us Irish, there’s nothing we love better than a good punch in the head! I mean, delivering one. Not receiving one.
Michael and I were starving, so we all decided to seek out the authentic Irish food I saw advertised on the website. This place had O’Pierogies. I probably should have talked to the people who ran this booth more thoroughly, because surely we were somehow related. How many Irish Ukrainian broads can there be in this town? (Probably a lot. This is Pittsburgh. What am I thinking?)
Although those pierogies were tempting, I was craving some Irish stew, like we used to get back at Timmy Nolan’s (that’s the shirt I got at Timmy Nolan’s when we went back there in March – thanks Steve!). Michael and I decided to split the stew in a bread bowl.
It was so yummy and delicious. The carrots were just the way stew and soup carrots should be, with that melt-in-your-mouth quality to them. The bread bowl itself was yummy, but a bit too thick, and kind of unwieldy to eat while we stood around finishing our beers.
Our friends CJ and Andrea went a little less traditional and got an order of Irish egg rolls. These were so very, very bad for us, but so very, very delicious. Each egg roll was stuffed with potatoes, sauerkraut, and corned beef. I knew it was wrong, but it felt so right!
We attempted to check out some of the other awesome things we read about on the website, but this was the point when we realized that just because they say ‘open until midnight’ does not mean that anything you want to see is going on until midnight, unless, of course, you just wanted to see Gaelic Storm and drink Guinness. We managed to catch these Irish sheep hanging out in their pen, but we missed the Irish dogs (I had really wanted to pet an Irish setter, which had been my first family dog, back when I was a wee little one – see, that was pretty good Irish there, huh?). We also missed the Irish sports, the Irish dancing, the Irish Civil War reenactments (true story, they had those), and the Irish arts and crafts.
Lesson learned: if you want to see neat stuff at the Irish Festival, take a vacation day from work!
We did have a good time, all things considered, and we got in for a discounted rate, so I can’t complain. Although I’m not 100% certain, since we didn’t get there until well after 9pm, I would assume most of the activities and booths close up around the time the sun goes down. The food, the beer, and the bands do go up until midnight, but then you have to maneuver your way past those creepy closed up water slides!
So, that’s two ethnic festivals for us! Next stop in 2012: the Ambridge Nationality Days. I love the chance to celebrate our heritage with food! 🙂