Little piece of Irish heritage in Erie


Amber Matha

One of the bands of the day playing on the stage that Mercyhurst University sponsored.

Amber Matha, Opinion Editor

On Sept. 18, the neighborhood around Fourth and French streets finished a weekend- long event celebrating Irish heritage. Despite the weather, thousands of people turned up to drink and eat Irish food and to celebrate all things Ireland.
The event took place right outside St. Patrick’s Church and spanned the whole block with vendors and food tents. The main stage at the event was sponsored by Mercyhurst University and had Celtic bands such as Corned Beef and Curry and The Bangerzz.
Gary Johnson and his wife ,Becky, were the chair people for the event. They were very pleased with how the event turned out. Although only a quarter Irish himself, Gary loves what being Irish means to the community.
“We brought this festival back to this neighborhood three years ago,” said Gary. “Since 1837 this has been the Irish neighborhood in Erie.”
Before three years ago the Irish Festival had been held at Rainbow Gardens at Waldameer Park.
“It means so much to us to be back in this traditional Irish neighborhood with this Irish Festival, and a lot of the people here are full Irish and really enjoy being down here,” Gary said.
Johnson said that in the past couple of years the event has brought in upwards of 7,000 patrons. With the heavy rain on Sept. 17, people were stuck at the festival and instead of running to their cars, stayed to drink and eat while the rain came down. This family atmosphere is what brings families back to the festival year after year.
“All of the other festivals have great food, great music and great camaraderie but everyone loves Irish food, and everyone loves Irish music,” Gary said. “That is what makes this festival so great.”
Mercyhurst students who attended the festival were surprised with the traditional Irish food that was served.
“I had the Irish stew with soda bread,” said Rachel Dunmire, junior Athletic Training major. “I have never had authentic Irish food before and the acoustic entertainment during the meal just set the mood.”
Students with Irish heritage were happy to see a piece of home away from the homeland.
“I like being Irish because they have a friendly culture, like to have a good time and the history of Ireland and Irish culture is so interesting,” said Nora Wagner, junior Environmental Science major.
“St. Patrick” made a guest appearance at the event. He was a very cheerful man, and he was willing to talk about how much he loves his culture.
“You see everyone getting to know each other a little better. There is a lot of smiles and there is great music. That is why I love being Irish,” St. Patrick said.