Green will be a popular color in downtown Waterloo this weekend when Iowa Irish Fest returns.
The state’s largest Celtic celebration features an entertainment lineup that includes nearly 20 music groups from across the U.S. and around 50 performances. Festival Director Chad Shipman says organizers are preparing to welcome as many as 50,000 visitors to the Cedar Valley.
“We have over 10-thousand tickets out there in people’s hands and we’ve got 70 partner sponsors that have employees, friends, and family that I know are coming out,” Shipman says. “That being said, we’re still short some volunteers. It’s looking good, but we could use some help. If you haven’t signed up online yet please come to the fest and go to the volunteer tent. If you want to work a couple of hours, we can definitely use your help.”
Shipman says it takes around 1,500 volunteers to make the festival run smoothly and around 500 of them are still needed to work at booths, beer tents, and other areas. Iowa Irish Fest was held as a virtual event in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shipman says there’s plenty of excitement surrounding this year’s celebration, which is taking place just days after an overnight RAGBRAI stop brought an estimated 20,000 visitors to Waterloo last week.
“We’ve got momentum going right now,” Shipman says. “I think everyone is excited about these outdoor events. RAGBRAI was a great success downtown and Experience Waterloo is a big (sponsorship) partner. The Convention and Visitors Bureau office over there supports us. From what it sounds, this is going to be incredible.”
Shipman says several first-time activities have been planned for this weekend’s festival. Among them will be a variety of workshops — some free and others requiring pay-in-advance registration — that focus on the Irish culture.
“We’ve got Whiskey and Yoga and we’ve got the Irish Cream workshop. We’ve got Food and Whiskey workshop. We’ve got a new, large Bloody Mary Cedar Ridge Whiskey and Vodka Garden this year. I can go on and on,” Shipman says. “We’ve got a ton of new bands coming in. Some of them we’re able to get across the pond into the U.S., so we’ve got all kinds of Keltic and Irish bands coming from all over the U.S. this year.”
The 15th annual Iowa Irish Fest begins this afternoon and continues through early Sunday evening. Event organizers have launched an Iowa Irish Fest phone app, which is available on the Apple and Google store. The newly developed app allows users to purchase tickets and view the entertainment schedule, among other things.
(By Elwin Huffman, KOEL, Waterloo)