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Festival brings Ireland to Adirondacks

LAKE PLACID - Visitors to Lake Placid had a chance to relish in their Irish heritage last weekend as they attended the second annual Festival of Ireland.

Held at ORDA's Olympic Ski Jumping Complex, the Sept. 5 and 6 event drew hundreds from across the Adirondacks and beyond, reaffirming it as a late-summer mainstay in the Adirondacks.

"We just felt that there was some (Irish) culture that needed to be brought to the area," said Shane O'Neil, who, together with fellow Irishman JohnJoe Reilly, organized the event both this year and last.

The two day festival featured a wide variety of Irish-themed music and arts. Among the many performers were the Celtic Grace Irish Dancers, Irish storyteller Deidre McCarthy and Adirondack Harper Martha Gallagher.

Among the event's activities were tug-o'-war games, Guiness keg lifts, and hay bale throwing. Several artisans and vendors were on hand, selling food and crafts that celebrated the rich culture of Ireland; one O'Neil and Reilly hope to preserve for future generations.

Their band, Aiseiri (pronounced "Ash-eye-ree"), gets its name from the old Irish word for "revival," denoting their goal to revive the ancient culture. Aiseiri plays traditional Irish music around the Tri-Lakes region throughout the year, but the pair decided to start their own production company just to put the Festival of Ireland on in Lake Placid.

Prior to the 2008 festival, the nearest comparable event took place in Albany. Now, said Reilly, people need not travel as far to celebrate their Irish heritage.

"I think this year, the outpouring of support has been great," said Reilly, optimistic that the festival will continue to expand. "Hopefully as the years go by, we'll turn it into a hugely successful event."

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