Members of the Boston College Irish Dance Club work on their traditional Irish dances moves outside Fenway Park. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki, Metro Members of the Boston College Irish Dance Club work on their traditional Irish dances moves outside Fenway Park.
Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki, Metro

A new three-day festival celebrating Irish culture, music, food and fashion is set to kick off Friday at the Seaport World Trade Center.

The first of its kind in Boston, iFest will offer Jameson Irish Whiskey tastings, an Irish tea party, chef demonstrations by famous local and Irish chefs, live music, traditional costume, and of course, a Guinness bar.

 

But organizers say the point of the festival is to showcase the full scope of Irish culture, not just the aspect that emerges on St. Paddy's Day.

"Irish culture is more than booze. A lot to Irish people over here have the same message. That's not how we want to be branded," said iFest creator Rachel Kelly, who hails from Dublin. "We do throw a great party, and there will be plenty of that [at iFest], but we want to show that there are all these incredible dimension to our culture."

iFest creator Rachel Kelly at The Butcher Shop in Boston's South End. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro iFest creator Rachel Kelly at The Butcher Shop in Boston's South End. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Visitors will also be able to trace their Irish lineage at genealogy masterclasses.

Before departing on an 11-day journey to The Emerald Isle last week, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh met with Kelly and Irish dignitaries at The Butcher Shop, where he was presented with his Irish Family Tree.

Like so many in the Boston-area, Walsh is of Irish heritage.

Kate Norton, a Walsh spokeswoman, said iFest is an opportunity to share the full Irish experience.

"We know Mayor Walsh's personal ties to his heritage, but there is a long history between Ireland and Boston. It is clear that these are strong ties that Mayor Walsh wishes to continue to strengthen, through his current mission there, his first Sister City agreement with Belfast, and his support of iFest," said Norton.

Tickets are $60 and are available at www.ifestboston.com.

Here are the top ten things not to miss at iFest


1. Riverdance: Internationally celebrated Irish dance group, Riverdance, will perform a special showcase of their recent, acclaimed “Heartbeat of Home” show with special guest performer Paddy Moloney. Festivalgoers will have a chance to join in the fun during special outdoor Ceilí (a social form of folk dance) and Irish dance master classes, all led by members of the Riverdance Irish Dance Troupe.

2. Award-Winning Irish Costume Designer: Joan Bergin’s Emmy award-winning costumes will be on display. Joan Bergin is one of Ireland’s best-known film costume designers and her film credits have included, “My Left Foot”, “In the Name of the Father” and “Dancing at Lughnasa”. More recently, her work was seen on television in “David Copperfield” and “The Tudors”, for which she has won three Emmys.

3. Live Irish Music: Guests will enjoy the sounds of today’s Irish music during performances on the main iFest Festival Stage and the Commonwealth Hall Stage. Each session will feature rotating performances from the following: Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, Damien Mullane Trio, and The Riptide Movement. A spotlight will focus on Irish alt-pop act, Heathers, formed in 2007 around the talents of the then 17-year old Dublin-based twin sisters Louise and Ellie Macnamara whose first album “Here, Not There”, featured the #1 hit “Remember When.” On the heels of the record, Heathers developed an underground following both in Ireland and in the United States. Their popularity in the US continued to rise after two summer tours of house shows and support from heavyweights such as legendary DJ and producer David Guetta and film and television producer, screenwriter, director, actor and composer JJ Abrams.

4. Irish Literary Salon: iFest will celebrate Ireland’s rich literary history with literary roundtable discussions and readings with up-and-coming Irish and American authors including: Donal Ryan (IMPAC Dublin Literary Award nominee and Guardian First Book Award 2013 for The Spinning Heart), acclaimed fiction writer Christine Dwyer Hickey, Arts Council Literature Award winner Clair Kilroy, novelist Darragh McKeon, novelist Lily King (winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction 2014), and noted award-winning short story and creative nonfiction writer Robin Black.

5. Guinness 20/20 Bar: Guinness is going to unveil the new “look” of the Irish bar for the 21st century at iFest with their 20/20 bar prototype. The Guinness bar of the future features culinary-focused cuisine paired with Guinness and Guinness Beer Cocktails. Guests will be the first people in the world to experience the new Guinness 20/20 bar before it is revealed anywhere else.

6. Irish Sporting Heritage: The Gaelic Athletic Association is coming to iFest and will feature top Irish athletes for meet & greet sessions, panel discussions, and Skills and Drills demos. Two major cups—the Liam McCarthy (hurling) and the Sam Maguire (football)—will be on display in a sporting exhibit. Festival-goers can get in on the action with a hurling simulator to give participants the chance to take a swing at the ball, called a “slitter”.

7. Chef demonstration Theatre: iFest brings together the top culinary talent from Boston and Ireland for a weekend of chef demos, tastings, and interviews. There will be a full kitchen with seating for guests to watch and the rotating chef talent. Chefs that will be featured over the weekend include Ireland’s best chefs: Darina Allen, Kevin Dundon and Cathal Armstrong along with America’s finest chefs: Barbara Lynch, Lydia Shire, Jasper White and Colin Lynch.

8. Bewley’s Boston Irish Tea Party: Bostonians have heard of the Boston Tea Party, but iFest is bringing a traditional Irish Tea Party to Boston. Bewley’s Tea of Ireland will host an afternoon tea party with Boston’s top pastry chef, Maura Kilpatrick of Oleana and Sofra. Bewley’s has been an Irish tradition for generations. Bewley’s Teas will be paired with some of Chef Kilpatrick’s award-winning pastries and cakes.

9. Jameson Irish Whiskey tastings and master cooperage experience: Jameson Irish Whiskey will have a pop-up cooperage where guests can meet Master Distillers and experience some of the finest whiskeys that the Midleton Distillery has to offer through whiskey tasting master classes and demos. Using tools that are over 100 years old, passed on from one generation of coopers to the next, Brian Nation (master distiller) will conduct master classes and tastings of all the Jameson varieties.

10. Genealogy masterclasses: iFest gives Boston’s large Irish American population a unique opportunity to explore their heritage through a series of exhibitions, lectures, and workshops. Genealogy expert and author John Grenham of “Who Do You Think You Are?” on the TLC network will give attendees the tools to trace their roots during genealogy master classes and talks on family histories.

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