Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Milwaukee Festivals
Every summer Milwaukee has several ethnic festivals at the beautiful Maier Festival Park in the old Third Ward, including in no particular order: Asian Moon Fest, Polish Fest, African World Fest, German Fest, Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, Mexican Fiesta and Indian Summer Fest. And there is an Arab one, but I can't remember what it is called. We also have the justly famous Summer Fest and, a late entry, PrideFest (Don't ask and I won't tell). And don't forget Bastille Days, which is (irony abounds) held in front of the Cathedral instead of at the Festival Park.

I've only been to three of the fests, German, Italian, and Irish. Irish is the only one we've gone to every year since we moved ot Milw. in 1995. It is a screaming blast. Irish Dancing, fiddling, singing, Gaelic all over the place, caeli dancing, red hair contest, bagpipes (Scottish and Irish), harps, banjos (have you ever heard Irish banjo?). I especially like it when Natalie McMasters makes it (she didn't this year). I also was impressed by a group called Celtic Spring, which is a dad and his five kids playing Irish fiddle and dancing (sometimes at the same time). They're from Southern California.

This year, as you may have picked up in even the secular press, Irish Fest featured a Mass celebrated by our soon-to-be-installed Archbiship Timothy Dolan. He was invited by Fr. Mike Maher, S.J. (whose family is one of the Big Promoters of all things Irish in Milw. and therefore IrishFest) before he even knew he was going to be archbishop.

My point is that Irish Fest seems to have more intrinsic energy than either German Fest or Festa Italiana (both of which I enjoyed thoroughly, but how many Frank Sinatra impersonators can one listen to? Of course, some people say the same thing about jigs.). Interestingly Irish Fest doesn't seem to be too infected by the neopaganism that is so evident in much of the Irish renaissance. Maybe that is the influence of the Mahers. I don't know.

You'd think German Fest would be really more popular and energetic than Irish Fest in Milw., but it doesn't seem to be so. I'll have to go to some of the others to see what kind of energy they have. Of course, Irish, Polish, Mexican and Italian have a Catholic flavor that the others lack. I suppose there is some Bavarian influence at German Fest, but it is telling that they have an ecumenical prayer service rather than a Mass. Irish Fest, Polish Fest, Festa Italiana and Mexican Fiesta have a Mass.

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