On March 23, 2014, RFK Stadium in DC was transformed into an Irish wonderland. Well, if carnival rides, fried food, beer tents, and over 30 Celtic-themed bands can be considered an Irish wonderland. For my part, it ABSOLUTELY is, so I put on my best green finery and hit the festival along with some friends for a day of merriment.
The gang from last year--together again!
Despite finding ourselves in the winter that WILL NOT END (seriously, snow on St. Patrick’s Day??), the weather was beautiful for the Fest. Clouds that disappeared through the afternoon and a high temperature of around 70 meant that I had to break out the sunblock for the first time all year and dress in layers to get my Irish pride on. Since it was so gorgeous out, me, Selvi, Kevin, and Diana met up an Irish pub near Union Station, The Dubliner, for lunch and then walked a few miles to RFK. It was just so nice to be outside and not freezing or slipping in the snow that we were all grateful for the chance to get out and walk.
As soon as we entered the stadium grounds it was clear something was different from last year. The festival organizers had added carnival rides! The area around the entrance had been transformed into a midway with rides (like a Tilt a Whirl!), games, and concessions to make anyone’s mouth water. Hello, funnel cake. Who can resist funnel cake?? Sure, I only had a taste, but still. Never pass up a funnel cake opportunity.
Aside from the carnival additions, things at Shamrock Fest were as usual—fun, crowded, and green. There was a large tent of merchandise where you could shop for items like kilts, t-shirts, and novelty vaguely offensive Irish-y accessories to cap off your Festival outfit. The beer lines were long, but for the most part moved quickly so nobody waited long. And I was gratified that the food area offered some slightly healthier alternatives than the usual fried food—namely, chili from the Hard Times Café. Yum!
The bands are always a highlight of the Festival. I love Celtic rock music, but most of the groups also dabble in pop and cover tunes; I admit I’m a sucker for a good 80s cover. And as soon as a band breaks out the fiddle or the bagpipes…the crowd goes crazy and shit gets REAL.
I’m always up for celebrating anything Irish, but the main reason I attend Shamrock Fest is to see one of my favorite bands, Carbon Leaf. They’ve been around for a while, but got their start in Richmond, VA and are strongly influenced by Irish and Celtic music. I first discovered their music at the Detroit Scottish Festival (while visiting my brother one summer when he still lived in Michigan) and their live CD was recommended to me by a dude working the music booth. From the first listen I was hooked and when I finally saw them live at William and Mary during undergrad it turned me into a huge fan.
Their set at the Fest is always amazing, and this year was no exception. They played for a solid hour and a half in the evening, and the energy coming from the crowd and from the band was infectious. Though we were packed pretty tight, my friends and I had gotten prime spots near the front of the stage and still had room to dance, jump, and fist pump along to our favorite songs. Hey, never underestimate the appeal of a good fist pump.
Side note regarding concert-going: for the most part, the crowds at Shamrock Fest are always really great. People tend to be respectful of other people’s space and with such a mix of people and ages, things never get out of control. Having said that, any festival that includes as one of the main draws beer drinking is going to attract some assholes. But other than one drunk guy who tried to start a mosh pit (during a Celtic rock concert? Really?) everyone was just dancing around having a good time and not being a jerk.
And then a guy in a wheelchair crowd-surfed by. On one hand, you go, dude. In the words of Kevin, “that guy is very handicapable.” On the other hand, you should have seen the look on the faces of the security staff who had to catch him and carry him down. They were not happy about the large and heavy metal contraption making a beeline for their heads.
All in all, Shamrock Fest was a blast aided in part by the stunning weather. Just one word of advice if you go: have your friends wear something distinctive that is NOT green. Because trying to identify anyone dressed in green in that crowd? Not easy.
Have green eye shadow, will travel.
Me and Selvi in the DJ tent!