Citizens Report American Irish Culture

Danahey on the Loose at Chicago’s great big fest of a weekend.

Last weekend, you could throw a rock pretty much anywhere in the Chicago area and find a festival of some sort or other. In fact, I’m starting the rock throwing festival next summer the weekend after the 4th of July to see who can hit the most of them.

Off the top of my head, I knew of Taste of Chicago,  a rib fest in Lake In The Hills, a folk fest in Lincoln Square, a burger fest in Roscoe Village, a Taste of Lakeview, and a beer fest and a wine fest in Barrington – all of which I missed.

Greek Fest in Elgin
Greek Fest in Elgin

I started my festing off at the Greek Fest in Elgin, which I visited for lunch and for dinner. Grecian chicken, gyros – ethnic foods are what makes America great. They really are.

Still, though it looked tasty, I was too timid to order a dessert called Kok. I’m not Andrew Zimmern. Nor did I try the watermelon with feta.

Greek Kok
Greek Kok

Saturday, through my other best fest buddy Vince I found out that the latter is indeed tasty. But we decided not to hit a fest and headed to Taylor Street instead.

Good move, as it was relatively calm in this  fest free zone, where we hit Conte di Savoia for their awesome subs, and olives, and cannoli  – then headed to Mario’s Italian Ice stand built into the side of the house.

Mario's Italian Ice
Mario’s Italian Ice

Along the way, we saw a bar called The Bar 10 Doors. Say it out loud and the pun makes sense. That’s what we did.

I was so full I lied to Vince that I wouldn’t be eating at the Irish American Heritage Center’s fest.

Hey, I ran into Shay Clarke, the de facto mayor of the proceedings. Hanging out with him while he meeted and greeted the approximately 4,325 people he knew there made me hungry. And dizzy, as I am Shay’s de facto minder, which is pretty much as fun and funny as it sounds.

Shay and his business partner Matt Rafferty are planning to open an Irish place in East Dundee in 2016. They won’t go for my idea of Irish lap dancing and of having corned beef night for the ladies.

That night ended with listening to Gaelic Storm, which has a violin player, Kiana Weber, who is way better looking than anybody else in the band. It was as if Kylie Minogue took up Celtic music.

Gaelic Storm's Kiana Weber
Gaelic Storm’s Kiana Weber

Sunday, it was time to cross the Cheddar Curtain for my annual trek to the Bristol Renaissance  Faire.

There with best fest buddy Tom, we learned about chime-making from an English guy who lives in Austin, Texas, who told us how a whole tone chime was used to make sound effects on Star Trek and in deep sea movies.

A kilt seller told me how he loves wearing his very, very old school model in which he wraps himself in a modern lightweight wool tartan. If you buy one, he measures you for it, and when it arrives, he gives you a lesson in how to put on the garment.

Joe Cullen's business in Bristol?
Joe Cullen’s business in Bristol?

And we saw Irish squeezebox artist Joe Cullen apparently has a side business in Bristol selling sheepskins – but not the diploma kind.

Of course, despite potato pancakes and a faux Egg McMuffin at the Carpentersville VFW post for breakfast, I was hungry again. And thirsty.

While the portobello mushroom stand looked tempting, instead it was Newcastle and then a shot of Absinthe mixed with a bit of Murphy’s brew.

Mushrooms at the Ren Faire
Mushrooms at the Ren Faire

That inspired a psychedelic idea. Since the fairgrounds are only used mid-July through Labor Day weekend by the pretend Elizabethans, why not turn the place the rest of the time into an encampment for Grateful Dead fans.

Groovy Ren Faire shirts
Groovy Ren Faire shirts

That’s from long ago, too. LIke the Grateful Dead now would be like heading to ragtime festivals when the Dead started out in the mid-1960s.

Anyway, I see a lot of overlap in the fandoms for both types of gatherings – Ded and Ren. Apparently, the Ren Faire marketers do, too, per the t-shirt on display and for sale.

We left the faire to hit the Brat Stop, because that’s what you do if you are from Illinois and you cross the border into Kenosha. That, and you head to Woodman’s to buy New Glarus beer. As their award-winning brews aren’t sold in Illinois, this is much like dads in the 70s did when they drove to Iowa to get bootlegged Coors.

Brat Stop sampler plate
Brat Stop sampler plate

Past the beer run, we drove to DeKalb for a Drum Corps International competition, which featured the Top 7 groups of stellar marching musicians.

If you have not seen a DCI show, you should.

Where else can you see this on a football field:

Ink travels from paper to pattern and brings music and magic into an exhilarating existence of drum and bugle corps passion. From the legendary Stephen Sondheim to Grammy award winner Gordon Goodwin, the Blue Devils traverse the musical terrain of endless possibilities. Through graceful composition the palate of discovery brings choreography and form into stunning realism and design becomes a living, breathing experience,” is how that corps’ website describe its winning show.

Other themes appeared to be Game of Thrones-style conquest (minus the blond dragon queen or the midget), hell, Paris, the power of 10, wrestling,  and the spark of invention (replete with prop Tesla coils)

It is not the Absinthe kicking in – and I am not a Grateful Dead fan – so excuse me if the above all seems trippy. That’s not even mentioning watching spritely people dancing about with gossamer, swords, pretend rifles, and other props.

Cape-clad Boston Crusaders performing their DCI show, Conquest.
Cape-clad Boston Crusaders performing their DCI show, Conquest.

All I know is it all sounds pretty good – and I want to bring capes back into style – for summer, with cargo shorts. And trombones.

Leave a reply