Irish Fest moves to downtown Naperville this year

A man dressed as St. Patrick and a boy dressed as a Leprechaun.
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The third annual Naperville Irish Fest held by the West Suburban Irish is moving to downtown Naperville for the first time on Sept. 22 and 23. 

It will be held at the city’s Central Park at 104 E. Benton Ave., a move north from its previous home at the Frontier Sports Complex. 

“We wanted to bring a festival to the south end of Naperville but found that we did not get much walk-by traffic,” said Marjorie O’Dowd, the co-chair of the Naperville Irish Fest. “With the fest being right in downtown, it was much easier to market and we will have great visibility, which should turn into greater attendance.” 

Irish music and dancing

Along with the new site, Irish Fest is also switching things up with the music. 

“So one of the things that we’ve done this year is we have all new bands that are coming in that we did not have last year except for The Boils,” said Terry O’Dowd, Chairman of the Naperville Irish Fest and Vice President of the West Suburban Irish.

Event-goers will get a sampling of Irish tunes ranging from acoustic to rock to bagpipes.

“We were trying to do a blend, like the group The Chancers from Ireland, but then to promote some local bands too,” Majorie said.

There will also be dance performances from the McNulty School of Irish Dance, Hogan Irish Dance Academy, and the Bentley Academy of Irish Dance.

“It’s so fun when the kids get together with some of the Irish dance groups, it’s such a great photo op for the parents to watch the kids learn how to dance the jig and different things like that,” said Marjorie. 

New Irish whiskey-tasting event

With the event being held in downtown Naperville, new opportunities were available for the organizers. 

“We also have for the first time this year at Quigley’s, whiskey tasting on Saturday,” said Marjorie. “There’s going to be one tasting [event] for five different types of Jameson and one tasting [event] for five different types of Tullamore Dew.”

There will be brand managers explaining the process of making the whiskeys and the event will offer pretzels and beer cheese to attendees.

“The samples they’re getting are some relatively expensive special blend whiskeys,” Marjorie said.  

A separate whiskey-tasting ticket is required for this event, but two free tickets to Irish Fest are included with the purchase of the ticket.

Food and vendors

Food trucks on site will provide a mix of tasty fare, with vendors including Schmaltz Delicatessen, Dark Horse Grill and Catering, Sausage Fest, and Nothing Bundt Cakes. There will also be award-winning soda bread by Collen Gallagher.

Vendors will be on site selling jewelry, clothing, soap, and handcrafted Irish gifts. 

Fun activities for the kids

Returning Saturday is the popular Home Depot Craft event that will have tables with wood and tools for kids to make crafts. 

But that’s not the only fun planned for kids.

“There’s a parade that will go at 3 p.m. on Saturday that’s led by bagpipers and the kids can dance and every child in it gets a miniature Irish flag,” said Majorie. 

Kids can also enjoy the bounce houses, playground, face paintings, games, and other crafting events throughout both days.

History of the West Suburban Irish and the festival

West Suburban Irish got its start in 1993 after an inaugural St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Naperville led to the group’s formation.

The Irish Fest is a newer addition to the group, first planned for 2020. Due to the pandemic, that inaugural event was canceled but returned in 2021. It had three main goals: having fun, promoting culture, and giving to charity.

“We’ve been able to contribute to over 30 charities through the funds received from Irish Fest,” said Terry. 

Each Irish Fest volunteer also receives $25 to donate to a 501(c)(3) charity of their choice. 

For additional information, visit the festival’s website

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