2017 Irish Fest
Every year since 1981 on Milwaukee's lakefront Summerfest Grounds, Celtic Milwaukee holds Irish Fest, one of the world's largest outdoor Irish music festival. For the last five years, I have been one of the 3,000+ volunteers who set-up, stage, host and break down the festival over a one week period.
For the last three years, I have been a volunteer photographer for the Fest. This is the first year that I have been able to retain my photos and show them in my blog. (Just so you know, we should in jpeg format at this Fest which means it is hard to get all I want out of all the photos like I would if we show in RAW).
One of the most fascinating things about being involved in a huge event like Irish Fest is the understanding of how such a festival works. While I have attended the Fest every since Riverdance (late 1990s) got me interested in Irish music, I attended as most attendees do: blind to the fact that it takes a whole lot of effort to make this event a success.
Monday and Tuesday, August 14 & 15, 2017
Celtic Milwaukee has few paid staff members but many volunteers who work all year around to make the Fest happen. The Summerfest grounds starts to see our volunteers show up the Saturday before opening. This year I did not show up until Monday, August 14th. On these days prior to the Fest opening, our crew shows up at 8:00 a.m. and works to approximately 4:00 p.m. each day.
Dale Larson (in the golf cart)
My first volunteer job is working for Dale Larson on a Grounds Crew that is responsible for dressing all the tables at Summerfest with colorful plastic tablecloths for the comfort of our guests. Sounds simple? We will start putting on the tablecloths tomorrow, finish only the part of the grounds that is opening on the Thursday soft opening day, and then on Friday rip off all the dirty tablecloths and cover ALL the tables on the whole grounds before the grounds officially opens for the full on festival.
Then we repeat that Saturday and Sunday morning--all before the gates open to the public. We are moving the whole time we are on the grounds.
This image is of just some of the boxes waiting for the table cover crew in what we call The Compound. The table cover crew shares The Compound with the sign crew. The sign crew has a big boss
and many hard workers whose job it is to climb, nail, paint and hang every sign on the grounds.
Second generation helper
Third generation being trained to take over some day
Celtic Milwaukee runs Irish Fest with the same organizational skills of a military organization and that means it takes a lot of Generals to keep the flow going.
John, the commanding voice of Irish Fest
The boss of bosses, Catherine Ward
Father (Dave Modlinski)
Son (Rory Modlinski)
Then, there are the worker bees.
Volunteer of the Year--and that is saying a lot about this man
So how does everyone keep in touch--radios, radios, radios.
How cool is that? Not very--which is why many of the tents needs these fans desperately.
Irish Fest and Celtic Milwaukee depend on the volunteers to know what they need to do to get the job done because there are...
Please note: I was too freakin' busy doing my job on Wednesday to take any pictures. That alone might tell you how hard we work to get this event up and running. Our work day is 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, August 16, 2017
Tonight the music starts and the guy in charge of the music at Irish Fest is Ed Ward. I don't care how hard he works all year, I want his job!
The musicians have a refuge before and after sets and these volunteers are there to make sure they get fun, drinks and fun.
A large area of Irish Fest is devoted to the food, sponsor and vendor activities. This is their big set up day.
As the festival gets ready to open, volunteers clean up real nice and get ready to enjoy the festival they work so hard to produce.
Here is a photo of the photographers who will be covering the event starting this night.
We work closely with the Media Department for the festival. Our boss there is Melissa Nickels.
By 4:00 p.m. Thursday I am changing my clothes and getting ready to become Photography Crew Guy for the opening night. While the volunteers are working to get the ground up and running, the bands are doing sound checks. This photo is a shot taken during a sound check and it is a sample of the rest of the photos coming in future blogs--the great music that makes Irish Fest one of the great experiences of my year.