Thousands of people gathered at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival this weekend for an Irish experience complete with food products from Ireland, live Celtic art and music and ancient Celtic axe throwing.
The experience was even more authentic to Ireland as it rained Saturday afternoon. But that didn't seem to bother folks entering Sandcastle's Riverplex for the 28th annual festival.
“A good Irishman is always looking for good reason to celebrate. It doesn't take much,” said Tom Jageman, who came with his wife Rosemary. They were both wearing green ponchos.
"We are seeing a lot of people who are interested in celebrating their culture and eating the foods their great grandmother cooked, but also people who enjoy the St. Patrick’s day parade, the beer and the food whether they are Irish or not," said Mairin Petrone, executive director of the fest.
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New this year was Taste of Ireland. People tried food items that could be found at a grocery store in Ireland: Guinness-flavored chocolate and fudge, whisky-flavored chocolate, honey infused with Jameson, Keogh's potato chips and more.
Also new to the festival was the ancient Celtic axe throwing event, which attracted a crowd of spectators.
“It’s becoming so popular in culture right now and what people don’t realize is that it actually has Celtic roots,” said Petrone. “Irish and Scottish and Welsh were doing ancient Celtic axe throwing as a sport and also used them to yield as weapons in war.”
The festival continues through Sunday with live Irish music and dancing on all four stages, plus a live art demonstration by Conor Coleman. He’ll be creating a large Celtic dragon.
His art may be new to the festival, but Conor, a world-class Irish dance competitor and professional, has been performing in his hometown at the festival for years.
There's a chance he'll take a break from his art to dance with one of the bands.
“You hear the bagpipes, you hear the fiddle. It really just gets my blood moving, you know? My foot starts tapping. It’s like I just can’t stop it,” Conor said. “I keep my dancing shoes in my back pocket.”
Find more information about the festival at www.pghirishffest.org.
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