Sunday August 30th, 1981 was an overcast day in Peoria when the first Erin Feis event was held outdoors at the Peoria Knights of Columbus. Over 800 people attended the 8-hour family event, sponsored by the newly formed Saint Patrick Society of Peoria. Entertainment on stage featured local bagpipers and the Barley’s, a local Irish group. Several of the large tents served corned beef and cabbage, along with some other great Irish foods and beverages. Many vendors were in attendance selling Irish merchandise that you cannot find in stores. The new Erin Feis t-shirts sold fast and the money that was raised paid for the next Erin Feis and Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.
Due to the great success of the first Erin Feis festival, the event was moved to the Exposition Gardens Exhibit Hall and remained there for several years. The Barley’s, Baal Tinne, and the Brogue from Kilkenny, Ireland have returned on multiple occasions to entertain at the festival. The Trinity Academy of Irish Dance of Peoria and the Peoria Celtic Bag Pipers (to be later known as the Celtic Cross Drum and Bagpipers) have also made appearances at Erin Feis. Booths containing historic Irish memorabilia and art have also been a great success.
With continued growth over the years, Erin Feis moved to Ravina on the Lakes in 1986. Erin Feis moved again in 1991 to the German–American Society Grounds at Hickory Grove, north Peoria. In 1997, the Saint Patrick Society of Peoriapartnered with the Peoria Park District, moving Erin Feis to the Peoria RiverFront and making it a 2 day event. In 2002, Erin Feis expanded to include Fridays, thus becoming a 3-day event.
While holding onto tradition, the Erin Feis Committee has done a great job of integrating fresh and new ideas into the event each year. Erin Feis celebrates our Irish culture through music, sports, arts, crafts, religious services, food, and beverages. Erin Feis is a family event where friendships are made and renewed.
Robert Sloan, first Chairman of Erin Feis, had a committee of four members and a handful of volunteers. Over the next 14 years, the chairmanship has passed from one board member to another. John L. Martin was appointed Chairman in 1995 and still holds the position today. Under John’s leadership, Erin Feis has become one of the leading Irish Festivals in the Midwest. Today, the Erin Feis Committee consists of about 20 members, and the committee coordinates activities for all volunteers, now several hundred strong.
By agreement between the St. Patrick Society (the Society) and the Peoria Park District (the District), the Erin Feis BOARD was established 1997 to be responsible for all matters necessary to create, promote, preserve and foster the Peoria Irish Fest (Erin Feis). This BOARD has the authority to establish committees in order to facilitate the Erin Feis. The BOARD appoints all committee chairs and has authority over all committees. The agreement also states, “All cultural or ethnic decisions as to the format, scheme and presentation of the Peoria Irish Feis shall rest exclusively with the SOCIETY”. Each party to this agreement appoints four (4) individuals to the board.
The current appointments are as follows:
- St. Patrick Society — John Martin (co-chair), Dennis Cremeens, Dann Haney, and Theresa Hoadley
- Peoria Park District — Kelly Cummings and Nick Conrad
Under the direction of the Erin Feis BOARD, the Erin Feis Committee is responsible for creating, promoting and maintaining the annual Erin Feis. The Erin Feis Committee is co-chaired by one person each from the St. Patrick Society (John Martin) and the Peoria Park District (Bill Roeder) who appoint all Sub-Committee Chairpersons. The Erin Feis Committee consist of all the Sub-Committee chairperson listed below. Sub-Committees are assigned to one of the six areas of responsible listed below. These areas allow for coordinating activities between the various Sub-Committees in related activities. Sub-Committee Chairpersons must have their actions approved by the Committee Co-Chairs. All contracts, agreements or other legal or formal documents must be approved and signed by the Committee Co-Chairs. You may contact either Co-chair at the following:
Steering Committee Responsibilities:
- Establish yearly festival theme,
- Establish rules and operational procedures,
- Establish committee goals, and
- Oversee and coordinate committees activities and develop long term plans and goals.
Chairpersons: John Martin & Nick Conrad
Members: Dann Haney, Jim Haney, Beth Haney, Theresa Hoadley, JoAnn Martin, Cheri Ruskusky, and KC Murphy
Nick Conrad (L)
John Martin, Jim Haney, Dann Haney, and Tom McConnaughay
JoAnn Martin and Kara Haney (L)
John Martin, Kate Kenny, Beth Haney, and Pat O’Connell
Jeff Putman, Kate Kenny, Beth Haney, Fergal O’Shea, Theresa Hoadley, Shelly Rapp, Nick Conrad, and Jessica Brekke
Cheri Ruskusky (L)
*Guardian Angel – Stacey Tomczyk
Nick Conrad (L)
Jim Haney, JoAnn Martin, Bill O’Neill, Danny Haney, Kara Haney, Nick Conrad, and Brittany Moldenhauer
Eric Hoadley (L)
Colleen Kimball, Nick Conrad, Matt Coker, Dennis Cremeens, and John Martin
To sign join our team of volunteers, please go to our volunteer page and sign up.