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Heritage and Community at the Irish Festival

By Aaron Calvin, Entertainment Editor

 

The 14th Annual Irish Festival occurred as it does every year on a dull, hung over Sunday in the Mack Arena. I went for the first time this year with my friend and Chronicle videographer, Jimmy Sia. Jimmy is true green Irish enthusiast and a firm Bostonian with family who still live in the old country. If there were ever anyone to attend an Irish Festival with, it would be him. 

My Irish ties, on the other hand, are a bit more tangential. Growing up in the Midwest, I have been only vaguely aware of the various European ethnicities that make up my bloodline. With this in mind, I entered the room of vast green and orange feeling a bit more tepid than my gung-ho friend. 

The cavernous area that is the physical education center was filled to the brim, generally with Long Island residents. Hofstra seems to do little for the community that is so highly visible as the different cultural festivals they hold, so this was generally unsurprising. The crowd consisted of families milling about, the very young and the very old fighting and laughing. Near the entrance was a stage that held the various performers of the day and, farther down, past the array of folding chairs, stood rows of merchant stalls. 

There seemed to be no real limit to what was for sale at these stalls, from skewed Irish themed items like shirts with cheesy slogans and Guinness advertisements to flea market wares, the wholly American idea of selling everything and anything seemed pervasive. The variety of items ran the gamut from jewelry to second-hand T-shirts. Food, some Irish, some not, was sold and, of course, beer was readily available.

The entertainment also displayed an Irish inflection with an American twist. The band Black Velvet played a set of strictly traditional Irish songs. The Hofstra dance club Strictly Steppin' displayed their abilities and, while not necessarily pertaining to the theme, performed well and received a positive reaction from the crowd. The clear highlights of the day were the band Stone Row and the Irish Step Dancers. Stone Row, while comprised generally of middle-aged musicians, played a mix of original songs and covers, combining traditional Irish aesthetics with a modern rock inflection. The Irish Step Dancers were mostly younger children, some more talented than others, all unabashedly endearing. 

After meandering around the festival with the myriad of families from all walks of life and various cultures, I texted my mother out of curiosity to see if I had any Irish heritage. She said that I did on her side, a great grandmother with maiden name Murphy. I smiled and finished my second glass of Guinness. From the strictly Irish, like Jimmy, to the vaguely Irish, like me, the Irish Festival provided a connection to a wholly American cultural experience. 

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