Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Not the Celtic Corner - July 2013

Not the Celtic Corner - July 2013

This is not the Celtic Corner.  This is just a mid-summer update from the web and blog administrator for the American Irish Association of Woodbridge NJ (

So, as July comes to an end there was this compelling need to share a quick story about a trip to Upstate NY to the Great American Irish Festival in Frankfort, NY (Herkimer County), July 26 ~28, 2013.  My family history in Upstate NY is that of a visitor for well over 40 years.  A lot of camping, fishing, canoeing, and after my father purchased about 14 acres on the edge of the Adirondack State Park in Gray NY in 1970,  even more time in the Adirondacks would be in-store much vacationing and short trips.  For many years, I would head north with my wife and my daughters up to the “cabins” (as they are referred to by my family) for Columbus Day weekend.  Biking, running, hiking, fishing, some shopping, and definitely eating, along with closing and winterizing the cabins before the first heavy frosts hit the area.  We stopped the Columbus Day Weekend trips in 2003 and miss them deeply.  My dad still owns the property and we hope to be able to upgrade the two cabins and the utilities very soon, to make them (again) a great place to visit and relax.

Earlier in July, my father and I made a trip up to the property to check on things.  As many may know, a couple of years ago, Hurricane Irene pummeled the Northeast and NY State was hit very hard.  Now this year, significant flooding in Central (Upstate Region) NY area along the Erie Canal has occurred for much of this past June and July.  They are still having flash flood warnings almost daily from excessive rain.  During this quick trip with my dad, I noticed a poster for the “Great American Irish Festival” ( the weekend of July 26 through the 28th.  All I did was make a note of this and then suggested “offhandedly” to my wife that we should go to the festival.  She agreed, I was not terribly serious about heading back up, but when she became interested, I started some investigations.  It turns out that this year’s festival was the 10th anniversary. 

Since I know the area well, it was now a simple process to figure out where to stay.  We picked Little Falls, NY and stayed at an awesome B&B in the Canal Place section of the city, right along the Erie Canal about 15 miles from Frankfort and the festival location - the Herkimer County Fairgrounds.  Canal Place is a great place to visit.  This is a very low-key location, with restaurants, shopping (mostly antiques), art galleries and two B&B Inns.  We stayed at the Stone Mill Inn (  Very comfortable and unique building, and we highly recommend the location.  We brought up our mountain bikes, running shoes and hiking boots.  Great weather, no air conditioning, and we had lots to see and do.  The festival ran for three days, but we choose to go on Saturday only and spend that day at the Herkimer County Fairgrounds.  Our Saturday started off with a bang! A loud cannon start, in fact, for the Ranger Run 5K.  The race is directly part of the festival and is well worth the effort to participate.  Runners cruise around the neighborhood of Frankfort, NY starting and finishing in the middle of fairgrounds.  The best news is that our race registration gave us all day, come and go admission to the grounds.  The race finished about 1 hour before the festival began on Saturday.  Because we ran the race, we were able to stay within the fairgrounds as the festival volunteers readied the area for the day.  The Festival is camper friendly, so people arrived with campers, tents, and all the fixings to stay for the weekend.  This was an awesome sight to see, just off of Route 5s. 

The GAIF is an incredibly well attended event that was impressively well managed, with thousands and thousands of visitors.  The weather cooperated for the most part, just a light shower on Saturday evening.  We suspect Sunday may not have been as dry, but the festival had quite a bit of cover with large shelters.  This festival is all about the music and the Irish/Scottish crafts that were for sale.  Shopping was a lot of fun and expensive, but worth it.  Now back to the music.  They had a pipe band competition, with a few different categories judged, 17 bands in total.  When the competition ended, many of the bands assembled in a “Massed March”, through the fairgrounds.  This was a great sight.  Music everywhere, the festival organizers assembled an incredible line-up of bands and individual musicians.  They had three stages – Contemporary, Traditional and a Regional Stage for local artists.  You could easily move from venue to venue within a few yards, and see some amazing bands.  Not just random bands and musicians, but bands that you know or have heard of already.  A local band called 1916 from Rochester was the first band we listened to, and they mixed traditional and contemporary tunes with incredible ease, they are very talented.  Their version of “The Foggy Dew” is exceptional.   Later on, the Young Dubliners, who sing traditional Irish music to their own musical rhythms.  They played three different sets at the festival one Friday, then Saturday and another on Sunday.  We watched the Young Dubliners mid-afternoon on Saturday with a very large and rowdy crowd, their music was terrific.  Up next for us was Makem and Spain who sing traditional music also, they are very talented and very funny.  We then listened to Girsa, a band of young girls from Pearl River (NY) that were very traditional and their music was mostly instrumental, with an occasional great voice in the mix.  We all will be hearing more from this band, no doubt.  We then watched the High Kings.  They started with “Rocky Road to Dublin”, then sang some of their new music (being released later this year) and finished their set with a rowdy version of “Whiskey in the Jar”.

As mentioned, an incredible band lineup.  If you wanted to see all the musicians, you have to go for three days.  When we were watching one band, we were wondering what we were missing at the other venues.  Although not the case with the High Kings, we knew what we were doing and we were staying until they were finished.

I have assembled a small picture gallery and also scanned pages of the festival’s pocket program that you can review here.

Also, there is a video gallery that includes a couple of short videos of the pipe bands et al, and the 1916 Band (please forgive the video shakes which had nothing to do with my beer consumption as far as you know) <videos link> .  You can review the artist list on the festival website and in this gallery.  This was a great short trip and we may very well attend the 11th Great American Irish Festival in 2014.


Ben Campbell