Because of the Mighty Miramichi web cam, last month I had the opportunity to attend some of the Irish Festival events.

I’ve never been to an Irish Festival before. I guess it’s one of those things I’ve never done because it’s so easy to do that I never made it a priority.

I’m part Irish — the Coughlans on my mother’s side came to North America during the famine — and I like to party as much as anyone else . . . some might even argue that I like to party a bit more than anyone else.

But I didn’t really think I’d enjoy the Irish Festival. I mean I get excited over Bono, Sam Roberts and Kid Rock. My musical tastes run the gamut including everything from classical and jazz to rock and hip-hop, but I’ve never really cared for the Lawrence Welk / Irish Rover polka sound.

And that’s what I expected the Irish Festival to be all about.

Was I ever wrong! Nothing prepared me for the reality of the event.

The festival started for me on Friday morning with breakfast at St. Michael’s. We were late for work. I was particularly stressed from trying to get the July issue of Bread ‘n Molasses finished before the weekend. So, we thought we’d just grab some take-out and eat at the office.

First lesson of the weekend — take-out breakfasts don’t exist at the Irish Festival.

And thank goodness for that!

While the breakfast itself was very good (ham, eggs, potato patty, rolls, juice, coffee and tea) if we had been able to get take-out, we would have missed out because the atmosphere was the best part.

For starters, the tables were set with real tablecloths, china and cutlery — no plastic. There was nothing throwaway about this breakfast; it was a keeper.

Within seconds we had a breakfast hot off the grill in our hands and we set off to find the coffee. Having never really been to a breakfast before, it never occurred to either of us that we would be waited upon.

Someone soon noticed our confusion and told us to go find a seat; they’d take care of the rest. So we did.

I’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants, many wedding receptions, several business banquets and even a few community suppers — but I have rarely experienced service like we had at that breakfast. It was almost magical the way a wave of servers washed over the table leaving juice, coffee, tea, a basket of fresh rolls, more jams and jellies.

The four ladies flitted in and around us like graceful hummingbirds, never once disturbing our conversation or eating, seeming to know exactly what we needed before we even knew ourselves.

Onstage someone played a slow lament on a fiddle. And the music, like the servers, was very much a part of the background and atmosphere, not at all intrusive.

It was the most delicious pampered and spoiled feeling to begin the day.

Maybe I just don’t go to enough breakfasts in the community and they’re all like that, I don’t know. But I got to tell you, we were very impressed.

We could really understand how tourists feel. Everything and everybody was so warm and inviting, you couldn’t help but want to be a part of it. If I could have, I would have blown off work and spent the rest of the day at the Festival.

Saturday morning found us in the parking lot outside the Lord Beaverbrook Arena as Irish clans paraded past. There’s something very strong and honourable about that parade; you stand taller in its presence. I wished I had a clan to march with.

By the time we went inside, the Nelson Doyle Dancers had already taken the stage. I worked in a ballet theatre and I love ballet, jazz and modern dance. I have a passion for great choreography.

I had heard the Nelson Doyle Dancers were good, but I was expecting them to be good in an accordion/ bagpipe kind of way that I probably wouldn’t enjoy. I expected they wouldn’t use much of the stage — they would dance in one spot and their repetitive high steps and kicks would soon bore me.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was nothing like I had expected.

I don’t care who you are or what sort of entertainment you’re into — if you have the opportunity to see the Nelson Doyle Dancers, you will enjoy them. Those girls are the coolest act I have seen in a long time and they rocked the joint!

Their mauve, white, fuchsia and black dresses made a dramatic statement and were well worth every penny spent on them.

The drumbeat in the music was almost tribal. It called to you at the very core of your being.

The high energy amazed and mesmerized. The girls dipped, bobbed and twirled together like beautiful butterflies. In perfect unison they floated through captivating choreography on and off the stage from one end to the other.

Words, pictures, video — nothing can accurately show the haunting nature of their performance. You would have to see it in order to really understand. And I highly recommend you do see it if you ever have the opportunity.

I could go on about the different performances I saw at the LBA and all the interesting things I took in at NBCC-Miramichi but I won’t. Suffice it to say, my first Irish Festival exceeded all my expectations.

In fact it didn’t even remotely resemble any of my expectations. While there were some accordions, bagpipes and Irish Rover type polkas and other tunes, I even enjoyed them much more than I would have expected.

I’m looking forward to next year, when I plan to attend everything just as a participant and not as part of my work.

Until then —

There were green alligators

And long-necked geese

Some humpy-backed camels

And some chimpanzees

Some cats and rats and elephants

But sure as you’re born

The loveliest of all was the Unicorn

Leave a Comment