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The Emerald City’s Top St. Paddy’s Day Celebration

There’s no better time than the present for a Seattle getaway. The Emerald City offers visitors the perfect blend of natural surroundings and unique urban neighborhoods. Travelers will enjoy everything from themed festivals to wilderness excursions.  


The Irish Festival is a two-day celebration of Irish Heritage hosted by the Irish Heritage Club. It’s free to attend the event, and will take place March 11-12. Event organizers expect roughly 12,000 people will attend with all ages encouraged to participate. Activities include Irish themed dancing, music, workshops, classes, lectures, art exhibits, and more. A marketplace will feature a variety of vendors and artisans selling Celtic and Irish products. The Irish Festival is part of a bigger Irish Week, which features 17 different Irish themed events that take place in the weeks leading up to and after St. Patrick's Day. The Irish Heritage Club and the Irish Festival supports the Matt Talbot Center, which is an addiction treatment center in downtown Seattle. got the chance to speak to John Keane, Treasurer for the Irish Heritage Club, to talk about this can’t-miss Irish celebration.


RAL: How long has the event been running?

JK: St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated annually in Seattle since the late 1800’s, often involving impromptu parties and unofficial parades. It wasn’t until 1972 that the City of Seattle issued the first official permit for a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Irish Festival was an outgrowth of that and the first Irish Festival held at the Seattle Center took place in 1982. The events in Seattle surrounding St. Patrick’s Day have now grown into what is called Irish Week 2017, with 17 different events taking place in the weeks leading up and following St. Patrick’s Day (March 17). The Irish Festival is one of the two most important events (along with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade).


RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?

JK: The Irish Festival is a free event which makes it difficult to know how many attend, but we estimate approximately 12,000 over the two days. Over 25,000 people participate in some way during Irish Week.


RAL: What makes this event unique?

JK: We will continue the tradition of bringing together some of the Seattle area’s finest Irish performers and artists to provide a taste of the very best of what it means to be Irish as the 2017 festival. We want attendees to learn about Irish culture and history while also enjoying the celebrations! We also have visitors from Ireland and elsewhere who participate annually. For 2017, the Mayor of Galway, Ireland, has confirmed his attendance at our Parade and Festival. Also attending will be Pulitzer-prize-winning author Timothy Egan, whose book The Immortal Irishman spent several weeks on the New York Times’ best-seller list.


RAL: Take me through a day at the event.

JK: The two-day festival includes non-stop Irish music, singing, dancing,  workshops, lectures, art and cultural displays, children's contests and other activities, including artisans selling Irish and Celtic products. The most popular attractions include champion Irish Stepdancers, the “Smilingest Irish Eyes” Contest, the “Most Irish-Looking Face” Contest, and the Irish Reels Film Festival of contemporary Irish short films.


RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?

JK: The Mayor of Galway, the Mayor of Seattle, and Seattle’s Police Chief, are expected to attend. We will have the Seattle Police Pipes and Drums pipe band performing with guest appearances from St. Patrick himself as well as the Seattle Seafair Pirates and Legionnaires from the 501st Star Wars Legion.


RAL: What dining options will be available?

JK: The location of the Festival is the Seattle Center Armory which has food vendors featuring fresh local foods and beverages. We also anticipate having vendors selling Irish Soda Bread and Corned Beef Sliders, etc.


RAL: Are there any lodging specials that are set up specifically for the event?

JK: The Springhill Suites Seattle Downtown is already one of our Preferred Hotels and we’re working on adding others to the list.


RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?

JK: Yes, it brings thousands of people to downtown Seattle and the other Irish Week events help raise funds for several worthy charities.


RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?

JK: Among the Irish Week events is a dinner that annually raises thousands to support the Matt Talbot Center, an addiction treatment program in downtown Seattle that serves the homeless, addicted, and mentally ill. The Friends of St. Patrick Dinner raises thousands for school and university scholarships.


RAL: Why should people come to your event?

JK: There are over 800,000 Washingtonians who claim Irish as their primary heritage, according to a recent census. Many of those have lost contact with their relatives in Ireland, but still genuinely feel that connection. The Irish Festival and the events of Irish Week provide an opportunity to reconnect with their tradition and heritage. It’s also a time to introduce younger family members to experiences that are not readily available elsewhere.

For more information about the Irish Festival Seattle, please visit their website.