The Peoria Irish Fest is fortunate to fall in the calendar between two of the largest US Irish festivals. The Milwaukee Irish Fest is always on the third weekend in August, and the Kansas City Irish Fest is always on Labor Day weekend. These huge festivals draw more than 100,000 people and have performers on dozens of stages.
If you haven’t been – go! They are incredible experiences! Attending these events is how our organizers “discovered” many acts. Talking to the entertainment committees from other Celtic fests is also a great resource. It’s best for us to be on the lookout for a band that is “on the rise,” and looking for maximum exposure. That’s what brought groups like Slide, and Socks in the Frying Pan to Peoria.
With Peoria bookended by large festivals, the acts performing in either … or both … cities look to us for performances before / after / in between. But we have competition; other Midwest cities host Celtic festivals on the same weekend as us. Among them: Dubuque, Iowa, holds its Irish Hooley, Madison, Wisconsin, has its Mad Gael Music Fest, and the Will County Celtic Fest takes place in Joliet, Illinois. Again, good times in each location.
Each festival gets its share of the bands. This year, for example, newcomer Cuig, old friends Goitse and Milwaukee’s Whiskey of the Damned will come to Peoria after playing in Milwaukee. It’s a pattern that has been occurring for many years.
Convenient calendaring is also how we can land the “big name” bands from time to time. When Gaelic Storm played in Peoria in 2011, or the Red Hot Chili Pipers in 2010 and 2013, or We Banjo 3 in 2015– these were the result of Peoria being “on the way” from one gig to another. Those were real “WOW!” moments, weren’t they?
Will these bands ever return to Peoria? Let’s just say that we approach every festival season with the attitude of “Never say never.” We try our darnedest to book bands that we know you want to hear … and we see where the chips fall. While we are frequently in talks with the “big bands” from previous years, some just get too expensive for our budget. But we have always had good luck in booking bands that put on a good show and return for another year.
Next time … there’s still yet another source of bands for Peoria Irish Fest.