It’s the first large event on the Peoria waterfront since the pandemic shut everything down. There was no Irish Fest last year, but normally it is always held the last weekend in August.
“It feels great. I think we’re really excited [for] the Peoria Park District about bring back in-person events,” said Nick Conrad, supervisor of events at Peoria Park District. In 2019, approximately 10,000 people attended the festival.
It used to be called “Erin Feis”, which means “Irish dance” in the Irish language. The name was changed after a study from Bloomington found many “people didn’t recognize ‘Erin Feis’ as Irish”, said John Martin, co-chair of the Peoria Irish Fest.
Martin said they have been working since last June to secure vendors and sponsors.
“We were always hoping that we were going to get back in the game, ready to go, and when our chance came, we took it,” he said. “We’re just happy we’re going to have it.”
Conrad said organizing the event posed some challenges because of ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions.
“We’ve made so many plans, and changed so many plans that it’s nice that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Martin said they hit a major snag when they couldn’t book international performers.
“The biggest problem we had to deal with is we had six bands from Ireland booked. They all agreed to come back again this year but they can’t get out of the country. Even now, they are stuck over there, so we had to reschedule,” he said.
Martin said there will be 20 bands from across the country, including seven or eight “major” Irish bands.
“We think this is going to be a high energy event this year. We look for good crowds because people are ready to get out,” he said.
In addition to five stages of entertainment, festival-goers can expect Irish dancing, a cultural area about Irish people in Peoria and beyond, and of course, beer and food.
The event is family friendly, and four legged friends are welcome too. Tickets are on sale now.