Sunday, August 19, 2012


Each August Milwaukee hosts the largest celebration of Irish and Celtic music in the world.  I used to doubt this claim; however, when we were in Ireland a few years ago, we visited Durty Nellie's, a well-known Irish pub in Bunratty.  One wall in the foyer of the pub was generously plastered with all sorts of "bumper stickers" from around the world.  Easily the most common were stickers relating to the Milwaukee festival, so I became a believer.  (For anyone from Milwaukee reading this, there were also a couple of "I Closed Wolski's" stickers as well, so who knows.)

If the festival has mascots--or perhaps more properly icons--they would be the leprechaun couple.

He (I assume these were humans dressed as leprechauns, not the real thing) was very willing to have his picture taken.

She . . . not so much, though that may simply have been a function of her outfit.  She actually looks more than a little perturbed, frankly.

It is obvious that drinking is a major element of popular Irish culture, as illustrated in these T-shirst for sale in one of the many shops on the festival grounds designed to separate the patrons from their money.

Also plentiful were kilts.

Even though they are properly Scottish rather than Irish, their popularity has spread.  And it's not just skirts.  The full regalia, if you will, include knee socks and special shoes, as well as a fancy man purse, known as a sporran, worn at the waist.

A great deal of the charm of the festival is in people watching.  These people could not all have been from Milwaukee.  I assume a great number come from out of state, particularly from the Chicago area.  I just cannot believe there would be that many "closet" Irish locally.

The woman in the shot below was kind enough to let me take a picture of her T-shirt.

And then insisted that I also take a shot of the back as well.

And here is a photo of her companion.

Great beard and even greater tam.  His shirt is hard to read but says, "Got Kilt?"  And, yes, he was wearing a kilt.

Here is another fellow declaring his Irish heritage.  My guess is, though, that his beard might have been a fake.

The color of the day, of course, was green, and not some sort of quiet, pastel shade of green.

And here is someone who was sporting all of the Irish colors.

Food, of course, was also plentiful.  I had bangers and mash.  Probably not the most fortunate choice: two indifferent, mystery-meat sausages on a bed of bland mashed potatoes.  Not that cuisine was limited to Irish fare.

It was pretty hopeless trying to make these look artistic.  Gross, really.  At least the pig was facing toward me and not away.

Each evening, apparently, there is a parade down the main "street" of the festival.  Lots of marching bands of bagpipers . . .

guys on stilts . . .

girls twirling batons, and assorted Irish characters, such as Mrs. O'Leary and her cow, Scarlet O'Hara, banshees, monks, and this guy. 

The best thing that happened was when the leprechaun couple came through they were pulled aside by a guy standing right across from us.  It soon became apparent that he wanted the leprechauns as witnesses to his proposal to his girlfriend.  She was totally surprised and took quite a long time (an excruciatingly long time from the point of view of the guy) to say, Yes.  Of course, standing 30 feet away, I got none of this with my camera.

We saw a number of musical performances--after all, that's the main point of the festival.  I took photos of the performers, but did not have the courage, I guess, to get closer to the stage for the shots.  Here are a few of the shots that I did take.  Not very good, frankly.

Here is the one time I did get up to take a shot from the side.  

There was equipment in my way, but I like that the shot was more intimate.

In addition to all else Celtic that the merchants were hawking, they were also selling Bodhrans, a sort of Irish drum played with one's fingers or with a stick.

Some of them were very decorative, and I took a few close-ups.

We also stopped for a few minutes to watch the tug-of-war competition.

Yes, those are women, and they were competing against a team of men.  Seemed unfair, but the teams were matched based on the total weight of the team, so there may have been more women on one team opposing a team of men with fewer members.

One of the most interesting things we did was to watch some individuals who were "jamming" Irish music on a strictly informal basis.  It was apparent that anyone who had a Celtic musical instrument was welcome to pull up a chair and join the session.  And the music was quite good.

 This older guy was playing a bodhran.

Perhaps my favorite shot was one of the kilt worn by the guy sitting just in front of us who was playing a bagpipe at this jam session.

Taken with my Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 24-120 mm f/4 lens.

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