Irish jigs, genealogy, dance and drumming enliven Irish culture and heritage in the Pacific Northwest at Seattle Center Festál: Irish Festival, marking its 45th year in Seattle 12 p.m.-6 p.m., Saturday, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday, March 12-13, in Seattle Center Armory.
This year Irish Festival honors the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, a pivotal event in Ireland’s fight for independence. A photo exhibition celebrates the life and legacy of Lily Kempson McAlerney, the last surviving combatant of the Easter Rising who passed away in Seattle in 1996 at the age of 99. A lecture reflecting on McAlerney’s life and her role in the incident is offered 3 p.m.-4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, in the Armory Lofts. McAlerney’s grandson Casey McNerthney is the Honorary Grand Marshal of the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, starting at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, at 4th Avenue and James Street.
Musical highlights include Irish folk music by Emmet “That Irish Guy” McElhinney, Carrigaline and The Gothard Sisters, traditional Irish and Scots music by The Homerulers, favorites from “Finians Rainbow” performed by Showtunes Theatre Company, and a musical about an Irish Emigrant Family entitled “Katie’s Hope.” Tara Academy Irish Dancers perform traditional Irish dance, along with Grafton Street Irish Dancers, Balefire Irish Dancers, Fire & Ice Irish Dancers and Slieveloughane Irish Dancers.
An exhibition of antique Irish postcards and Bartlett engravings in the Armory Lofts uses Irish visual culture to provide insights on Ireland’s social and cultural history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Historian and genealogist Charles Hadrann presents rare books and maps and answers questions about research, 12 p.m.-5 p.m., Sunday in the Lofts. A display of DeLorean DMC-12 sports cars outside the Armory showcases the futuristic vehicles and their production in Belfast.
Wide-ranging lectures and workshops are offered in the Lofts throughout the festival. “Basic Irish Genealogy” with Jean Roth runs from 1 p.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, providing participants with suggested resources and tips for researching family histories. Poet Anne-Marie Fyfe and historian and literary critic Cahal Dallat offer “From Brian Boru to the Foggy Dew,” an exploration of the intersections of history with poetry, song and story, 2 p.m.-3 p.m., Saturday. Fyfe and Dallat also present “Gasworks & Marble Halls,” a lecture tracing the history of Irish music, 2 p.m.-3 p.m., Sunday. “Learning the Irish Language” with Liam Boyle offers instruction on basic words and phrases, 12 p.m.-1 p.m, Sunday.
Children’s activites include a custom LEGO display, Irish themed coloring activites and competitions for “Most Irish Looking Face” and “Smilingest Irish Eyes.” Festival-goers of all ages may create a festive tissue paper shamrock to wear around their wrists or in their hair.
Other festival highlights include a marketplace offering Irish and Celtic goods, free film screenings at the Irish Reels Film Festival in the Lofts and a drawing for a two week vacation in Galway.
As Seattle Center Festál prepares for a milestone in 2017, the 20th anniversary of this illuminating series of ethnic cultural events at Seattle Center, we celebrate the diverse arts, crafts, foods and family activities presented on weekends throughout the year. The 23 Festál events, organized by ethnic/cultural organizations in partnership with Seattle Center, form the bedrock of our free, public offerings at Seattle Center, captivating and enlightening festival-goers as they experience the distinct cultures that influence the character and course of our broader community.
Seattle Center Festál is a program of Seattle Center Productions. Admission is free-of-charge. For more information on this collection of ethnic cultural events and other Seattle Center public programming, visit Seattle Center or call 206 684-7200. Learn more about Seattle Center Festál: Irish Festival at: Irish Festival.