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Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer, and with it comes Kansas City’s annual Irish Fest, Friday, Sept. 3 through Sunday, Sept. 5 at Crown Center.
In a regular year, the festival draws as many as 80,000 green-wearing revelers. But because of the pandemic, last year’s event saw workarounds such as at-home whiskey flight kits with a link to a virtual tasting, Zoom concerts and online cooking classes.
Irish Fest Executive Director Keli O’Neill Wenzel says this year’s ticket sales are up, but she can’t know for sure how many people will actually attend. What she does know is that the festival should be much closer to its pre-pandemic glory.
Here’s what visitors can expect at Kansas City Irish Fest 2021.
Gone are the days of multiple small tents filled with activities and families gathered close to each other. This year, all activities for kids will be spread out across Washington Park to allow for lots of physical distancing.
There will be a large stage where events such as the Silent Disco will take place. Wenzel explains that the silent disco will be achieved by using wireless headphones tuned to one of two stations. Only people tuned to the same station will be dancing to the same music.
But kids aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the dance — the whole family can join in. “It’s so much fun,” says Wenzel. “We think this is for everyone.” And if you don’t feel like dancing, Wenzel says it’s just as fun to watch.
Other than these changes, watch for old favorites like balloon artists, inflatable obstacle courses, face painting, crafts and a scavenger hunt.
As you may know, a travel ban is preventing our Irish friends from visiting from across the pond. This means that, once again, no musicians from Ireland will physically perform at Irish Fest.
But it’s not all bad news! Thanks to a grant from Culture Ireland, 10 bands will entertain festival-goers live on big LED screens on the Miller Lite and Boulevard stages. The lineup includes Maca, Shane Hennessy, Claire Sands, Aoife Scott and We Banjo 3.
And Sunday, at 7 p.m. on the Miller Lite stage, a new tradition continues. Local artists create a live “mix tape” of popular songs by Irish performers, an event that first appeared in 2019. “The idea is that everybody knows the songs,” Wenzel says. Participating artists this year include Calvin Arsenia, Jessica Paige, Ashley Davis and Gaelic Storm.