Irish culture and more take over downtown

It was a good weekend to be Irish in downtown Milford, where a two-day Irish festival included cultural music, entertainment and food.

While turnout on Saturday seemed to be less than it has been in past years for the popular event, Friday night was very successful, organizers said.

It was the eighth year for the fest, and only the third year that the event ran Friday as well as Saturday.

“Turnout on Friday night was the best we’ve had since it started,” said Marti Hardiman, who organized the event with Ed Mead and Jenn Hussey.

Linda Hardiman, manning the ticket table, said 611 adults and 50 children attended Friday night. On Saturday, 1,621 adults and 340 children attended, which is down from last year’s 1,900 adults.

There was no shortage of food or culture either day. Two bands performed Friday night, and six bands took the stage Saturday. In addition, Irish dancers from the Lenihan School of Dance and Mulkerin Dancers performed on Saturday.

“I think most people come for the music,” Marti Hardiman said as people danced under the Rotary Pavilion at Fowler Field.

Others, though, come for the food: There was corned beef and cabbage and shepherd’s pie from Duffy’s Tavern in West Haven, and Irish soda bread and brown bread from Emerald Bakery in Milford, to name some of the samplings.

“These are big sellers,” said Marge Bagley, who was manning the soda bread table.

Guinness ran steadily throughout the day, and there was Irish coffee, too.

People interested in their Irish heritage got a little help from members of the Connecticut Irish American Historical Society, who were providing information about genealogical searches.

Pat Heslin, secretary for the organization, said it’s best to know at last the county from which one’s relatives hail before starting a search.

Then, “gather family information: pictures, Bibles, letters, newspaper clippings, obits, etc,” according to a research document the group was distributing.

The society also was passing along the story of Saint Patrick to children interested in hearing the tale.

“Patrick was a fearless leader,” the story goes. “He spoke the Irish language, which he had learnt as a boy. He picked a shamrock from the ground — the shamrock was three leaves and Patrick used them to describe God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Soon the people started to listen to Patrick’s teaching. He converted so many and spread his message so far across the land that he is now the patron saint.”

Lynn and John Allen, their daughter and her friend spent several hours Saturday at the festival and said they had a great time.

Even though some people thought the $10 admission fee was a bit high (it was $5 Friday evening), the Allens said admission was free for the children, and all the children’s activities, including a bounce house, climbing wall and face painting were free too. So they had a full day of Irish culture, food and children’s activities.

Marti Hardiman said that even though numbers were down somewhat Saturday, the event made money. Proceeds pay for scholarships, holiday baskets and more.