When I started working on Dad’s Eye View, 52 adventures seemed like a daunting goal; by the end, though, I found that a lot of great adventures had to be squeezed out. One of the adventures that didn’t make it in was the Minnesota Irish Fair, going on this weekend on Harriet Island near downtown St. Paul. Here’s the essay that I wrote for that event; note that it hasn’t been treated to the great editing that MHS Press applied to the rest of the book–pick up a copy or download the app for the good stuff!
We went to the Irish Fair for the music, and ended up getting a refresher course in Gaelic at the hurling match.
Hurling is a fast-paced team sport that looks a little like lacrosse, field hockey, and hand-to-hand combat. Two teams face of with cupped sticks (called hurleys or camáin) with which they move a hard leather ball called a sliotar down the field. By move, I mean hurl with great force and deadly accuracy. Or mostly accuracy: during the match we watched, it wasn’t too uncommon for the ball to go whizzing toward the crowd, though I didn’t see any spectators actually mowed down by it. The game was called by a representative of the Gaelic Athletic Association in a hurried mix of English and Irish, so I was able to do some quick (though perhaps inaccurate) translations of the score for the boys while they watched the players rushing up and down the field.
When Jack and Peter were very little, my small collection of Irish-language children’s books sometimes made it into the mix of bedtime stories. They especially liked “Brán agus an Noillag,” a translation of the ubiquitous Spot the puppy books (this was the Christmas edition), and “Bhí faithigh ann uair” (“There Were Giants Then”), about a little girl growing up in an extended family. I would read it in Irish, translating as I went, and they would laugh at the funny sounds I had to make. The Irish, which I learned in the basement of a St. Paul bar from the late Sean T. Kelly, didn’t stick with them, but they seemed to enjoy the glimpse into a foreign language.
An interest in Irish music did stick, though, and the Irish Fair is one of the best places in the Twin Cities to take in a lot of tunes. We saw touring bands at the main stage, and more intimate concerts of fiddle, uillean pipes, harp, and accordion. The fair also features story tellers, craft demonstrations, lots of food, and all the Irish-themed bric-a-brac you could ever want. All in all, a great place for “craic” (Irish for “fun”) whatever your Irish connection.