Cuyahoga Falls -- Faith and begorrah, it's that time again!

It's time for the Riverfront Irish Festival and this year's festival promises to offer three days of Irish food and entertainment June 9-11 at Falls River Square in Cuyahoga Falls. The weekend will include family fun, two stages of music, the Irish Marketplace, an Irish Catholic Mass and traditional Irish step dancing.

The Irish Festival marks the kick-off of what will be a shortened summer festival season in the city. The last event, Festa Italiana, takes place July 21-23. After Festa, construction on the south end of the pedestrian mall will begin to open Front Street to vehicular traffic.

Festival committee spokesman Tom Fickes said the Irish dancers are a popular attraction. "The MacConmara Academy of Irish Dance will perform on Saturday (June 10)," Fickes said. The dancers are led by their teacher, Teresa-Seeman Buck. The school's name, MacConmara (Gaelic for McNamara) is a tribute to the Irish heritage of Buck's grandmother Kay McNamara-Seeman who encouraged the children to master traditional Irish dance, according to the school's website.

The festival is presented each year in Cuyahoga Falls by the St. Brendan Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Akron. A majority of the proceeds from the festival go toward college scholarships for graduates of Hoban, St. Vincent St. Mary and Our Lady of the Elms high schools.

Festival-goers will encounter a variety of Irish and American food including corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie and "fair-type food," said Fickes, as well as Irish-inspired gifts. And to drink, patrons will find, in addition to the usual soft drinks, an Irish-style craft beer, a Guinness-type stout and Bud Light. There will also be vendors offering Irish-themed gifts and souvenirs.

Those looking to hear Irish music will not be disappointed. Fickes said the list of bands includes Dulahan, Mary's Lane, West Side Steve, the Shaffer Brothers Band, New Barley Corn, and Callahan and O'Connor. The majority of this year's musical acts hail from right here in northeast Ohio.

This will be Dulahan's sixth appearance at the Riverfront Irish Fest. "We formed 15 years ago in Dayton, Ohio, in the back room of a local Irish Dance School and have played pubs, festivals and assorted other venues around the midwest ever since," lead singer and guitarist Kyle Aughe told the Falls News-Press.

"Our music is a bit of a hybrid sound, rooted in the Celtic tradition but infused with lots of contemporary influences from Indie-folk, Americana, Roots, Bluegrass, etc.," Aughe said. "We do almost exclusively original music from our eight CDs but will occasionally throw in an old pub favorite. Our sound features multi-part vocal harmonies and a variety of acoustic instrumentation including guitar, mandolin, banjo, Irish Bouzouki, flutes and whistles, harmonica and Highland bagpipes."

Fickes noted the Irish Festival will open at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 9 and run until 11 p.m. that night. On Saturday, June 10, the Festival will open at noon and run until 11 p.m. On Sunday, June 11, things will get started with the Irish Mass at 11 a.m. in the Amphitheater.

Immediately following the Catholic Mass, is the annual photo opportunity known as the Gathering of the Red Heads in the Amphitheater. The festival itself will be open on June 11 from noon to 7 p.m.

Parking and admission are free. For more information, log onto www.riverfrontirishfest.org.

Email: swiandt@recordpub.com

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