Eileen Dahill/Minnesota

Altan and Screaming Orphans from Donegal will perform at Minnesota’s Irish Fair August 8-10th.

Irish Fair

Three days is not enough to see all the local and international performers at the Minnesota Irish Festival! It is a FREE Irish Festival and Altan and the Screaming Orphans from Donegal are showcased. It’s the biggest of its kind. No wrist bands, no tickets, no hand stamps. Everyone and anyone who can enter through the arched gate on Harriet Island in St. Paul, Minnesota can stay all day with NO admission.

I cross-reference all the fair entertainment first with the following Irish Fest weekend in Milwaukee (our annual family reunion). If I can’t catch an act at the Minnesota Irish Fair they are short-listed to my Milwaukee Irish Fest show list. If the entertainment schedule conflicts, we dash between the two of them. I also need to juggle my mother’s interest in ‘Dogs of Ireland’, Sheep herding demonstrations, any Irish Tea Room, bagpipers, and mass. My group, the St. Paul Irish Dancers, is also performing.

And of course, all best laid plans come to a screeching halt if we run into someone-we-know. Someone-we-know can be someone my mom vaguely remembers and any red-haired person. My mom approaches any red-haired person like they were a long-lost relative. I have long stopped whispering to my mom, “I think they are Scandinavian”. I just stand at attention shifting our heavy survival bag of sunscreen, water, cookies, extra clothing, blanket, and purses from one arm to the other while my mom makes her red-haired connection.

Are you from Ireland?

My mom has never tired of being an ambassador for Ireland. No matter what grocery line we are in she has always been happy to say a few words about immigrating from Northern Ireland when someone recognizes her accent. But at Irish Fair it’s a different story. Many people come to Irish Fair for the full Irish experience and love meeting Irish people. (The only time my mom went to the south of Ireland was to travel to Cork and hop a ship to America until 50 years later).

For decades my mom has patiently nodded as people have regaled her with their trips to the Cliffs of Moher, golf courses, and medieval banquets with her signature forefinger to her cheek. I once accused my mom of lying about golfing. But she drew me short and hissed that she had taken us many times on our birthdays in Minnesota to miniature golf! But now with her memory loss we are literally running out of precious time. My family have developed more maneuvers than ‘Klingon Warships’ to steer her gently away from Irish fair goers at this time in her life (except red heads) so she can enjoy the day.


Altan will be performing in Minnesota. The Minnesota Irish Festival is fortunate to have a traditional Irish band like Altan that graces world stages plop down in the Midwest for two shows on our main stage at our Minnesota Irish Fair in August. I think part of the reason Minnesota can book the renown Altan is because band member, Daithi Sproule, (originally from Derry) lives in Minnesota. Despite many accolades as a performer, Daithi is very approachable and is an esteemed teacher at the Center for Irish Music in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Daithi will be performing with other groups as well at the fair.


The Screaming Orphans

The Diver sisters – Joan, Angela, Grainne, and Marie Therese from Buncrana, Donegal were at the Minnesota Irish Fest last year. They were a BIG hit and were invited back. This year they are on two different stages for four shows at the Minnesota Irish Fest. They have a few days to catch their breath from an Iowa Irish Fair before they race up to Minnesota. Luckily no Diver sister is (currently) a red-head or my mom would be chatting them up too.