The 39th Annual Big Irish Fair & Music Fest – Finding a New Home in Long Beach

Posted: June 18, 2014 in Animals, Art, Cars, Events, Food, Irish, Long Beach, Music
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Orange County’s largest Irish cultural festival moved to Long Beach for its 39th annual run this past Father’s Day weekend at El Dorado Park. This festival celebrates Irish culture by throwing together thousands of traditional Irish step dancers, a handful of Celtic bands, lots of characters, and more vendors than you can shake a clover at. First-time visitors to this fair may feel overwhelmed at all the activities available – after all, they call it the BIG Irish Fair for a good reason. Luckily, this fair takes place on two consecutive days, allowing guests to select which day they want to explore this fair. The event staff provides a map of the fair, as long as guests can read it and get past the immediate wave of vendors upon walking in through the front gate.

Immediately upon entering, guests walked through two aisles of various vendors selling all sorts of stuff. Some of these booths contained information, such as the booth about the Rose of Tralee, which resembles an honoring title, like a Miss America for the Irish.

The Irish love cars, and they proudly display their automobiles that have any Irish background, including real DeLoreans.

Unlike last year where the animals, such as herding border collies, the sheep herd, and Irish wolfhounds, all situated around one area, this year separated the two different packs. The sheep herding demonstration took place at the south end of the festival, while visitors could find the Irish wolfhounds at the north end of the festival.

Once past the vendors at the entrance, visitors walking to the left would find three shaded stages housing the Irish step dancing competitions, where girls and boys display their precision and grace with their fluid and bouncing movements.

Right in front of the step dancing tents, visitors could walk by various Irish art on display.

Following a clockwise route from the step dancing tents, the Royal Tara Village allowed visitors to observe and participate in reenactments of traditional Irish life, including demos on playing with Irish musical instruments. Back here, visitors could also interact with Irish wolfhounds.

Down the center of the festival lie all the food and drink vendors. Sadly they did not offer much in the line of Irish food. I eventually settled for some Shepherd’s Pie, which could not measure up to the quality of actual Irish pubs.

At the far back of the festival, we end up at the Shamrock Bowl, where the traditional Celtic bands played to large crowds all weekend.

Continuing clockwise around the festival, we close the circle back to the entrance with the Emerald Bowl. Not only did this stage feature the bagpipe players, but this stage’s lineup included more of the younger, modern Celtic bands that carried more modern rock sounds, such as a Celtic reggae band, and a handful of Irish punk bands.

The Big Irish Fair has now completed its 39th year running, operating very similarly to how they did many years ago. Of note, they use traditional means of marketing and advertising the fair. Today, the new generation uses a lot of internet and social media to get word of events out to the public, as well as publications like local newspapers or magazines. In the past few years I have attended the Irish Fair, I barely discovered any form of marketing – I personally originally discovered it through word of mouth. Speaking of the past few years, very little has changed as far as structure and activities. If you attended the Irish Fair many years ago, you would not miss a lot in the recent years of the fair. Also, for an Irish Fair, the fair did not emphasize Irish food, or at least American Irish food. One booth sold Fish & Chips, but at a quality like a county or state fair, meaning mostly fried with little regard to the quality of the fish and chips. Another booth posted a Corned Beer & Cabbage sign; however, that booth lied with the sign because they sold corned beef sandwiches that contained so little meat. For a true corned beef sandwich, head to Roscoe’s Deli in Fullerton, where they pile on over a pound of meat on your sandwich. In the end, first or second time visitors to the fair will enjoy it, especially if you attend with friends and/or family. But as the fair barely changes year after year, attending more than two years in the row yields less excitement. If you have not gone, then I certainly recommend attending next year. If you already have attended, spread the word out to your friends and family. For such a low price to enter, any new attendee will easily get his or her money’s worth.

  1. Caro says:

    Great write up! I went with some of my family on Saturday and am in the process of getting a post up about it. I couldn’t agree with you more on the food. Such a great opportunity to get creative but alas, womp womp. Overall, ‘tho, very much worth it! (I think I see my Dad in one of your pictures, ha!)

  2. […] throughout the year. Some people hold an Irish festival in September, and some people hold an Irish festival in June. Other times, people simply rock the heritage. Whether you come from an Irish clan or just love the […]

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