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Milwaukee Irish Fest Showcases

Showcases at Milwaukee Irish Fest have highlighted the music and culture of various regions and topics of the Celtic world. Read about each showcase's theme and browse the featured musical acts below.

Music of the Generations (2005)

The Celtic Roots stage made its debut in 2005 to celebrate the influence of Irish culture on American popular music. The stage featured Irish and Irish American entertainers carefully chosen to represent a snapshot of American popular music throughout the generations. Many performers combined learning and entertainment for a fun, interactive and new Milwaukee Irish Fest experience.

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Nova Scotia (2006)

Nova Scotia, and particularly Cape Breton, is world renowned for its musicians, singers, and songwriters. While Irish Fest had been booking many Nova Scotia artists over the years, eight of the province’s top artists appeared at the 2006 festival, in cooperation with Eastern Entertainment Agency, Music Nova Scotia, and with financial assistance from the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture, and Heritage. In addition to individual performances, a variety of artists participated each day in a traditional Nova Scotia Kitchen Party where they were featured in one show.

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Celtic Women in Music (2007)

Celtic women have had a profound effect on Irish and Celtic music throughout the years, and their influence was the inspiration for the theme of the 2007 Celtic Roots Stage. The women who appeared at Milwaukee Irish Fest’s Celtic Women in Music Showcase are daughters of a musical form dating back at least to the 16th century when female ballad singers wandered the countryside singing for alms. The music has come a long way since then, sticking to its roots, yet borrowing from American and British folk and even rock music. Feminism in the 1970s and 80s helped move the music from the kitchen, where it was often performed, to the world stage and venues such as Irish Fest.

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Galway (2008)

Galway is known as the cultural heart of the Emerald Isle, and its distinguished entertainments and cultural contributions were the focus of the 2008 Milwaukee Irish Fest. The Galway Showcase was the result of a special partnership among: Fáilte Ireland, the country’s National Tourism Development Authority; Galway Bay FM Radio, one of Ireland’s largest independent radio stations; Minister Éamon Ó Cuív; Galway City; Galway City Council, and Údarás.

Galway is among Ireland’s most popular and fastest growing tourist destinations, and its influence infused the festival from the music on the Celtic Roots and main stages to the exhibits in the Cultural Village. Seven renowned acts from Galway highlighted the 2008 festival.

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Scottish Sampler (2008)

Milwaukee Irish Fest expanded its Celtic music offering with a Scottish Sampler, highlighting some of Scotland’s top emerging traditional and rock-inspired talent, many of whom made their U.S. debut. Five featured acts represented Scotland in 2008.

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Nova Scotia and Friends (2009)

Atlantic Canada’s four provinces, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland/Labrador, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, have deep roots in Celtic culture and music. As an integral part of Celtic history and influence around the world, Milwaukee Irish Fest welcomed nine entertainment acts from these Maritime Provinces to comprise the Nova Scotia and Friends Showcase in 2009.

A celebration of Irish Fest’s partnership with the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture of the Province of Nova Scotia, the Showcase featured a fresh perspective on Celtic music, art, cultural programming and tourism with 11 tents outside the Celtic Roots Stage.

To cap off each day of the festival, the Celtic Roots stage recreated the informal, community gathering style of the Atlantic Canada kitchen party – a celebratory performance of Showcase artists on one stage.

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Northern Ireland (2010)

Northern Ireland was featured at the 2010 Milwaukee Irish Fest through a special Northern Ireland Showcase. The showcase, spread throughout the festival grounds, highlighted the culture, heritage, and music that have helped shape this country steeped in history. Northern Ireland was represented at several of the must-see venues at Irish Fest, including the Moore Street Market, The Cultural Exhibit Pavilion, Hedge School, and numerous musical stages. The Celtic Roots Stage was the main showcase stage for Northern Ireland artists.

Additional Northern Ireland attractions included:

  • Artisans and craftspeople displaying Celtic jewelry, GAA jerseys, fabric art from the region, and more.
  • An exhibit on Narnia, from the C. S. Lewis series of books.
  • A replica of the Titanic’s hull, which also served as an exhibit on Belfast.
  • Special exhibits focusing on Northern Ireland’s parliament as well as Saint Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick and the Ulster-Scots.
  • Tourism representatives from several counties in Northern Ireland.
  • Drama Club from Bangor and the Aisling Ghear Theater from Belfast.
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Derry and Donegal (2011)

There are certain parts of neighboring counties Derry and Donegal that are instantly recognizable. Things like Derry’s monumental walls and sculptures or Donegal’s exquisite textiles and rich fiddle tradition. These two special counties were represented at several must-see venues at the 2011 Milwaukee Irish Fest, including Moore Street Market, the Cultural Pavilion, Hedge School, and numerous musical stages. The Lakefront Brewery Celtic Roots Stage was the main showcase stage for Derry and Donegal artists.

Other showcase attractions included:

  • Exhibit on Beech Hill House and its importance during WWII in the Cultural Pavilion.
  • Ceramics, jewelry, and textiles were available for purchase in the Moore Street Market.
  • Award-winning films like “Paradiso” screened in the Volta Theatre in the Cultural Pavilion.
  • Genealogist Brian Mitchell and emigration historian Paddy Fitzgerald in the Cultural Village.
  • Stories of U. S. Presidential links to Ulster-Scots in the Hedge School.
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Bluegrass (2012)

The origin of Bluegrass music dates back to 18th century immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales who brought their unique ballads and tunes to the Appalachia region of the U.S. The early music had a predominant string band format dominated by fiddle, and great to include the banjo, guitar, mandolin, and autoharp. In 2012, Milwaukee Irish Fest celebrated the unique connection between Bluegrass music and Ireland with a special Bluegrass Music Showcase.

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Nova Scotia (2013)

The 2013 Milwaukee Irish Fest showcase was Nova Scotia, the Canadian province whose name means “New Scotland.” Nova Scotia is home to a unique brand of Celtic music rooted in the traditions of the 18th century Scottish immigrants who arrived there after the Highland Clearances. Guests experienced a wide variety of Celtic song and instrumental traditions of Nova Scotia in the showcase.

Guests were invited to gather ‘round as they were treated to a special Kitchen Party set during the opening night of the festival with artists from Nova Scotia. A tradition in Nova Scotia, a Kitchen Party is a musical jam session typically held at someone’s home.

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Scotland (2014)

The 2014 Milwaukee Irish Fest featured a Scottish Music Showcase that celebrated the richness of Scotland’s diverse traditional music. While many people link Scottish music with the Highland bagpipes, it is so much more. There are wonderful ballad, harp, and fiddle traditions that stretch back many generations in Scotland. Scottish traditional music remains vibrant even as popular music flourishes in Scotland today.

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