Reminder Assistant Editor
SPRINGFIELD What could be better than a warm summer night with a cool drink in your hand and being surrounded by friends? The John Boyle O'Reilly Club thinks you need just one more thing: great Irish music.
This summer will be the 10th anniversary of the John Boyle O'Reilly Club's Irish Music Festival, and club president Eric Devine believes it will be the best festival yet.
Last year's festival was the biggest one so far, with more than 1,500 attendees.
"It started off as just a group of people around the table wondering why they had to go to other clubs, other places to have an Irish festival," Devine said. "We decided to start our own. It's been growing and growing and we've had a lot of fun."
He added that the club has "high ambitions" regarding the festival but since it is landlocked inside the city, there is a limit to what the club can do.
The John Boyle O'Reilly Club has started a Gaelic football league which is really taking off, according to Devine. "There are a ton of things to get involved with," he added.
The 10th anniversary Irish Music Festival will begin at 3 p.m. on Aug. 9 and will take place rain or shine. Hamburgers, hot dogs and other summer fare will be available and nine tables of vendors will be selling Irish wares. Opa-Opa will be serving drinks as a featured sponsor of this year's festival.
The focus of the fest, however, is the music.
Devine could not say enough about the festival's headliners, Enter the Haggis (www.enterthe-haggis.com). "They're a great group of guys," he said, "and a lot of fun. We don't mind when they play late." Enter the Haggis will be playing in the outside music tent beginning at 9 p.m.
From 3 to 6 p.m., Leo Doherty and Charlie Bongovi will be playing in the upstairs hall; the Cabeys will be in the downstairs lounge.
"Leo is from Derry Island and plays a lot of traditional stuff," Devine said. "He's fantastic. He's got a great voice." He also lauded the Cabeys, a brother-sister duo who play a mixture of traditional and contemporary Irish music.
An open Irish session will be taking place from 3 to 5:30 p.m. in the outdoor music tent as well. Devine said approximately 15 to 20 musicians participate in the session every year.
From 6 to 9 p.m., the Green Rovers, who are new to the festival this year, will be in the upstairs hall; Flynn 529 (www.flynn529.com) will be performing in the downstairs lounge. Sweetwind (www.myspace.com/sweetwindmusic) will be playing in the outdoor music tent.
And, if Enter the Haggis isn't your thing, Brian Russell will be performing in the downstairs lounge from 9 p.m. to midnight.
The Irish Music Festival is open to both members and non-members of the John Boyle O'Reilly Club. If interested in joining, applying is easy "you just need to have a little bit of Irish in you," according to Devine. The application fee is $55, with $40 yearly dues afterward. The club currently has over 1,000 members.
"We are vibrant and strong," Devine stated, "and we've already started work on the 11th festival."
Tickets to the 10th anniversary Irish Music Festival at the John Boyle O'Reilly Club are $10 for adults and children under 12 are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased at the door the day of the festival.
Anyone wishing to volunteer to help the Irish Music Festival Committee is asked to attend a volunteer meeting on Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. in the downstairs lounge of the John Boyle O'Reilly Club, located at 33 Progress Ave.
To learn more about the festival or the club, call 788-8603 or visit www.jbo-club.com.