Third annual Naperville Irish Fest kicks off at Central Park

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“This is the third annual Irish Fest in Naperville, and we are at Central Park, which is behind Quigley’s,” said West Suburban Irish Vice President Terry O’Dowd. “Just a beautiful setting, it’s a lot like Ireland. In Ireland, there are a lot of rolling hills.”

This is the event’s first year at downtown Naperville’s Central Park, 104 E. Benton Ave. It was previously held at Frontier Sports Complex.

“We thought it would be a nice idea to bring a festival to the south end of Naperville, and it just wasn’t that well received,” said Naperville Irish Fest organizer Marjorie O’Dowd. “Whereas here it’s just so easily accessible (for) people walking downtown, has a great visibility and it’s a feel.”

Local Irish entertainers take the stage

West Suburban Irish brought out a variety of local bands to this year’s festival.

“We’ve got bagpipers, we’ve got dancers, we’ve got the rock bands,” said Marjorie O’Dowd. “We’ve got a couple of Chicago bands, one from Naperville. We wanted to focus on some local music, so a lot of people are familiar with these bands because they play at Quigley’s or they’ll play at various Irish restaurants in surrounding towns.”

Dancers from the McNulty School of Irish Dance, the Bentley Academy of Irish Dance, and Hogan Irish Dance Academy will take this stage this weekend.

Family fun at Naperville Irish Fest

The Lavaque family came to watch their daughter Margot take part in the Irish dancing, but stuck around for the food and fun.

“The dancing was fabulous, and all the vendors are great too,” said Irish Fest attendee Brian Lavaque. “The face painting it’s just a good, fun family atmosphere, good way to enjoy the culture. I think we’ll probably be back next year for sure.” 

Cold drinks, Irish food, and vendors

Naperville Irish Fest offers several beers on tap, such as Guinness, Harp, and Go Brewing’s non-alcoholic and low-alcohol options.

On-site food includes Schmaltz Delicatessen, Dark Horse Grill and Catering, Sausage Fest, and Nothing Bundt Cakes. There will also be award-winning soda bread by Collen Gallagher.

“We’ve got Schmaltz Deli and they make everything in-house,” said Marjorie O’Dowd. “He’s boiling corned beef right there, it’s cooked on site. We just had mashed potatoes with cabbage in it, that was absolutely delicious. There’s Irish cream pie desserts.”

Also, vendors are on-site selling jewelry, clothing, soap, and handcrafted Irish gifts.

New Irish whiskey-tasting event

New this year to Irish Fest is a whiskey tasting, which will take place Saturday afternoon at Quigley’s Irish Pub, located at 43 E. Jefferson Ave.

“At 3 p.m. we have an ambassador from Tullamore Dew, and they’re going to be serving and explaining five different whiskeys from a basic up to a very expensive specialized batch,” said Marjorie O’Dowd. “Then at 6 p.m., it is Jameson, same thing, 39 people. So it’s going to be a lot of fun, we’re hoping to garner a lot of attention this year to make it larger in both days.”

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.

If you missed out on the first day, you’re not out of luck! Naperville Irish Fest runs through Saturday night.

“I’m really pleased with the turnout and anticipating a lot more even tomorrow because it opens at noon to 10 (p.m.) with more great bands and great food,” said Marjorie O’Dowd.

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