Celtic Cultural Center of Texas hosts authentic Irish St. Patrick’s day festival


Guillermo Hernandez

Michelle Pulsifer of On The Spot Body Art paints Samuel Blumenstein’s face during the 10th annual St. Patrick’s Day Austin Festival on Sunday night at the Shoal Crossing Event Center.

Alberto Long

Thousands gathered to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in geniune Irish fashion — leprechauns and green beer not included. 

The Celtic Cultural Center of Texas hosted the 10th annual St. Patrick’s Day Austin Festival inside the new Shoal Crossing Event Center on Sunday night. The event featured performances of traditional Irish song, dance, food and drink. 

The event placed a special emphasis on authenticity and cultural education, especially as it relates to Irish cultural history. Donnelle McKaskle, director of the Celtic Cultural Center, said she takes pride in avoiding the stereotypes associated with Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day. 

“Unlike other places we try to focus a little more on families and education and the traditions. If you look around you won‘t see any representations of stereotypes,” McKaskle said. “No green beer, most Irish people drink Guinness.”

At the festival, cutouts of famed Irish poets replaced stereotypical Irish imagery. The Gaelic League of Austin held two workshops teaching the Gealic language and merchants sold genuine Celtic memorabilia. 

The evening also featured live entertainment, including James Keane, an exponent of traditional Irish accordion, and Goitse, a young group flown in from Limerick, Ireland. McKaskle said Keane has been recorded by the Smithsonian Institute and has played with some of the greatest musicians in the Irish tradition. She said Goitse — whose members are all in their mid-20s — is unique in that they are a young band that wants to play in the tradition of the masters.

Stephen Roe and Marci Adkinson, attendants at the festival, were pleased to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a family-friendly environment. They said their children were especially pleased by the face-painting booth and storytelling hour. 

“The authenticity here is really neat and important,” Adkinson said. “It’s not commercialized. It’s got stuff for the kids too. It’s nice to come out and not be clumped into a small area with a bunch of drunk people.”

Leland Simpson, a merchant at the festival dealing in authentic Celtic knotwork, said the festival had a high turnout, noting most of the attendants were genuinely interested in their heritage. 

“The turnout’s been great,” Simpson said. “[The people here] like to get into the history of [the knotwork]. A lot of the jewelry I have has a card that gives you history and background. The people here just love that.”

The festival served as a fundraiser for an upcoming Celtic festival to be held in November, which will also be hosted by the Celtic Cultural Center.

Published on March 18, 2013 as "Festival embraces Celtic culture".