By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 18, 2021 at 10:02 AM

Irish Fest is back on tap this summer after a 2020 event hosted online, Aug. 20-22 at the Henry Maier Festival Park, and it's celebrating its 40th anniversary!

Not only one of the best lakefront festivals in Milwaukee, Irish Fest is among the best Celtic music festivals in the world.

“Céad míle fáilte! We can’t wait to greet our guests back with 100,000 welcomes and celebrate our love for Irish and Celtic culture together, in person,” said Melissa Ward of CelticMKE, which produces the festival.

This year's theme is "Celebrating The Spirit of Irish America."

Please note that

Here is a guide to everything you need to know about Irish Fest 2021!

Dates & times

  • Friday, Aug. 20, 2 p.m.-midnight
  • Saturday, Aug. 21, noon-midnight
  • Sunday, Aug. 22, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Lineup

“This year’s lineup puts a spotlight on the music and heritage of Irish America,” said Ward. “We look forward to sharing the spirit of the music and traditions that were brought over from the Emerald Isle and other Celtic nations across the centuries.

“There’s certainly no shortage of top-notch musicians that play Irish and Celtic music in the States. The rich cultural heritage will be on full display throughout the festival weekend.”

Among the performers announced are 3 Pints Gone, Academy of Irish Music, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, Asher Gray, Randy Gosa, Molly Noyes, and Olivia Langby, Ashley Davis Band, Athas, Atlantic Wave, Barry Dodd, Beglan Academy of Irish Dance, Bellator Academy of Irish Dance, Blackthorn Folly, Boys of Belfast, The Byrne Brothers, Cashel Academy of Irish Dance, Ceol Cairde, Cherish the Ladies, Cream City Ceili, Curtis Crossroads, Derek Byrne and Paddygrass, The Drowsy Lads, Dublin O’Shea, Eileen Ivers, Eileen Ivers, Evan and Tom Leahy, Finbar McCarthy, Frogwater, Gaelic Storm, The Gleasons, Glencastle Irish Dancers, Green Sails, Hearthfire, Ian Gould, The Irish Allstars, Irish Fest School of Music, Jeff Ward, JigJam, John Whelan and Brian Conway, Leahys Luck, Kim Robertson, Kinsella Academy of Irish Dance, Mairtin de Cogain Project, Mary Ann Miller, Mick Moloney, Jimmy Keane and Pat Broaders, Mile Twelve, Milwaukee Irish Dance Company, Milwaukee Academy of Irish Dance, Molly Tuttle, Moxie Strings, The Murphy Beds, Natalie Haas and Alasdair Fraser, The O’Connors & Theiss, Pay the Devil, Reilly, Rory Makem, Rory Modlinski, Runa, The Screaming Orphans, Scythian, Seamus Egan Project, Seamus Kennedy, Seven Nations, Tallymoore, Tis, Trinity Academy of Irish Dance, Winifred Horan Trio, The Wise Maids and many more.

Cashless festival

This year Irish Fest will be cashless. Credit and debit cards, as well as Google Pay and Apple Pay will be accepted everywhere at the festival. Additionally, there will be multiple cash-to-card machines on the grounds that allow you to exchange cash for a prepaid MasterCard debit card that are valid everywhere, even beyond Irish Fest.

Cash will be accepted, however, for the raffle.

Cultural Village

The Cultural Village is an Irish Fest highlight with displays on Celtic art, history, genealogy, Gaelic language and more, as well as a variety of performances, lessons and classes. You'll find the gentle giants – the Irish Wolfhounds – as well as terriers, spaniels and setters in the Celtic Canines area. Details can be seen here.

Food & beverage

More than 35 sites throughout the grounds. Options include Irish-inspired cuisine, but also Italian, Chinese and other foods.  Ward's House of Prime in the Coors/Parkview Stage area on the south end of the grounds will serve a Sunday morning Irish breakfast special and The Tipperary Tea Room (in the Lilliput area) and Paddy's Cafe (in the Coors area) offer a Sunday morning special with morning buns. Vendors will offer vegetarian and gluten-free options.

A list of menu items can be seen here.

Jameson will serve its whiskey at the Jameson Lounge, the Jameson Express Bar and at The Cottage. This year the Jameson Lounge is located to the west of the Celtic Roots Stage. New this year is a Jameson Slushy Bar. Details here.

Safety

Masks and face coverings are not required, though the Centers for Disease Control recommends them in crowded areas if you are unvaccinated. You can find festival health and safety updates here.

Marketplace

Nearly 100 vendors in two marketplace locations offer a plethora of Irish and Celtic theme products, from clothing to jewelry to books to CDs to crystal and more. Find a list of vendors, with links to their sites, here.

If you can't wait until the festival to wear your Celtic pride, Irish Fest has an online merch store here.

Mass

Mass will be held at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Choir begins at 9. Entrance to the Mass is through the South Gate only, beginning at 8 a.m.

Tickets

  • General Admission: $21.
  • Senior Discount (ages 60+): $15 -Offered at the gate ticket windows only.
  • Active Military: Free admission any day of the festival. Show valid service I.D. at any gate ticket window to receive a complimentary ticket.
  • Children 12 & under: Free admission, no ticket required.
  • There are no multi-day passes.
  • For group ticket sales call (414) 476-3378.
  • A list of VIP experiences is here.

Daily discounts

  • Saturday: If you are a signed up for the 5K Run/Walk to Irish Fest and fundraise $100 or more, you will receive free admission to the festival. Thank you for supporting the Arthritis Foundation of Wisconsin!
  • Saturday: Frontline workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will receive free admission to Irish Fest between 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. They can claim their complimentary ticket at any gate ticket window. The Frontline Workers Recognition Ceremony will begin at 3:30pm at the Miller Lite Stage.
  • Sunday: Receive free admission to the festival before 11:30 a.m. by donating non-perishable food items outside the South Gate to Hunger Task Force. The Hunger Task Force kindly asks for a minimum donation of three nonperishable items.
  • Sunday: College students with a valid student I.D. can enjoy a $3 discount off of General Admission tickets between 2 and 7 p.m. at any gate ticket window.
  • Sunday: Military Day. Veterans and military personnel receive free admission, with valid I.D., plus one guest, all day on Sunday. Receive complimentary ticket at any gate ticket window.
  • Every day: Donate 10 original Irish music related items (CDs, LPs, 78s, cassette tapes, posters, sheet music, songbooks) to the Ward Irish Music Archives and receive two free tickets to the festival. Items can be dropped off at the main gate to receive your free tickets.

Tips for getting there

Visit RideMCTS.com to find schedules for the bus routes that get near the Henry Maier Festival Park, which are GoldLine, GreenLine and Routes 15, 30 and 33. Bublr Bikes also has more than 80 stations around town, including numerous near the grounds and you can find a map of all the stations here. If you're driving, you can find parking information here. Of course, there are also scooters scattered around Downtown, too, but please stay off the sidewalk and be safe.

Volunteering

Thousands of volunteers help make Irish Fest an annual reality. If you'd like to volunteer, you can see a list of opportunities and sign up here.

Virtual Festival

In addition to the in-person festival, there will be a virtual event running at the same time, with Irish-themed music and cultural shows for those unable to attend in person. In addition, Irish Fest will stream one concert per day to provide a live look at the Milwaukee festival.

Full details on the virtual program can be found here.

For more information

Visit irishfest.com or call (414) 476-3378.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.