Hey Daytrippers! This weekend I’m heading to the beautiful Catskill Mountains to the 41st Annual East Durham Irish Festival, which takes place Memorial Day weekend every year. I’ve been going the past few years w/ my bother and sister-in-law, and it’s always such a great time. They’ve been going for much longer, and even used to work one of the store booths for quite a few years, along with her sister and friend who will also be joining in on the Irish shenanigans. Throughout the festival grounds there will be Irish bands playing all day , Irish step dancing, bagpipers, lots of great food, and of course the Irish beers and ciders will be on a constant flow from the taps. The party goes all night too, as the many bars in town will have several bands playing each night from Friday on.
The festival itself runs Saturday and Sunday, with the first bands starting at 11:30am Saturday and 10am Sunday. 22 bands will perform on three different stages, including returning favorites The Narrowbacks, Shilelagh Law, and The Whistlin’ Donkeys, who all tend to play in more of the Irish rock style. The Whistlin' Donkeys are actually from Ireland! For more traditional songs check out Kitty Kelly and Castkill Fever who will also teach you traditional Irish dances to go along with some of their songs. There’s typically a good balance between traditional Irish tunes and newer Irish rock songs, all of which will get you up and groovin’! There’s a handful of songs that most bands will perform their own version of, so by the end of the day you’ll be belting along even if you’d never heard them before.
In addition to the music there’s always a ton a vendors selling a variety of goods, from clothing and knickknacks representing Ireland, Guinness, and Keltic designs, to handmade jewelry and etched glass, its great to stroll around shopping for a bit. They will be plenty of food vendors as well, including our favorites selling chicken in a pita, cheesecake on a stick, and buckets of fries. Plus the drink vendors are scattered throughout the festival grounds selling Guinness, Killian's, and Magners Irish Cider.
Be sure to take time during the day to see the huge brick map of Ireland, the largest map of Ireland in the world, which sits on the grounds at the back of the festival, just through the gate. The map has outlines of each county drawn out, with that county's flag waving in the wind above it. On the hill just above the map is the Authentic Donegal Irish Cottage where you can pop in for tea, scones, and stories from Ireland.
On our way into the festival we’ll definitely make a stop at Guarenteed Irish, a local store in town selling gifts, clothes, and food all from Ireland. We’ll be there for the delicious Irish candy bars you won’t find around the States!
While the last band goes on around 7:30, once their set is done the night is far from over. Grab your DD, get an Uber, or walk down the street to one of the local Irish bars for even more drinks, live music, and to dance the night away! I know for sure that The Shamrock House, Gavin's Irish Country Inn, and Blackthorne Resort are all having multiple bands each night. We'll definitely be heading to the Blackthrone to sing and dance along to The Whistlin' Donkeys and The Narrowbacks till the wee hours of Sunday morn'.
Tickets for the festival can be purchased at the gate for $20/day or $30 for a two day pass. Children 14 and under get in free with the purchase of an adult ticket, and for additional charges there are rides and activities for the kids too.
Have you been to the East Durham Irish Festival in the past? Are you planning a trip this year? Let me know, and hope to cheers you there!