Spring Break is coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day, bringing hundreds of visitors to central Iowa for today’s  big parade at noon in downtown Des Moines. Irish Fest is also underway this afternoon at the State Historical Museum, just a few blocks from where the parade is ending. Museum spokesman Jeff Morgan says Irish music will be one of the attractions.

The band Four Shillings Short will be playing traditional and original Irish and Scottish music. There will also be performances by the MacKenzie Highlanders Pipes and Drums and students from the Foy School of Traditional Irish Dance. Visitors can also learn Irish dancing from a choreographer, while another expert will offer instruction on Irish crafts and arts. Morgan says the events and exhibits are all free.

The Weavers and Spinners Guild of Des Moines will spin and talk about the fabrics of Ireland and weaving. Also, Lynn Alex, of the Office of the State Archaeologist, will present a virtual tour of Viking and Medieval Dublin, Ireland, as well as archaeological sites. In addition, a spokeswoman from the Iowa Genealogical Society will present a lecture called “Researching Your Irish Roots” for people interested in tracing Irish heritage.

Morgan says there’s a special display being featured at the museum as well. The exhibit called “Iowa & the Irish” will be on display throughout March. Morgan says it’s inspired by the thousands of Irish who left their birthplace to seek new homes in Iowa in the 1800s.

“The largest number of Irish immigrants arrived in the 1850s during Ireland’s potato famine,” Morgan says. “They helped settle many Iowa towns, including Dubuque and Clinton.” Most of the events run from 1 to 4 P.M. today.

For more information, visit: “www.iowahistory.org“.