Several Janesville businesses and organizations will be participating in the festivities, offering specials and featuring entertainment from local musicians and performers.
“For a first-year event, we have a lot of good partner businesses and groups that are putting on Irish-themed events, so it’s been good,” Fredricks said. “Everybody on the Irish Fest Committee is very happy. They’re pleased with the response.”
Two performances by Gaelic Storm will highlight the festival. The group plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Janesville Performing Arts Center. The Saturday concert is sold out, but tickets still are available for the Sunday performance.
Tickets are available at the Rock County Historical Society, 440 N. Jackson St., or by going to the Janesville Performing Arts Center’s website, www.janesvillepac.org.
Fredricks said the Gaelic Storm concert is what inspired the idea for Irish Fest.
“(The Janesville Performing Arts Center) was thinking of trying to tie in an Irish heritage day or an Irish festival around the concert,” Fredricks said. “We found out that there is an interest, so the group applied for a Joint Effort Marketing grant from the state tourism department and received that for $39,500 to promote the event outside of Rock County. We approached Kerry Ingredients, and they became our presenting sponsor. With those funds, we were able to promote the festival in Rock County.”
Another highlight of the festival will be the Shamrock Around the Block that will be held from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday in downtown Janesville. The event will be similar to the Rock Around the Block events that previously were held in Janesville, and will feature music from The Kissers and The Gleasons.
“It will be a smaller version of (Rock Around the Block), but there’s going to be two bands, one from Milwaukee called The Gleasons and a really popular band out of Madison called The Kissers, so that should be a pretty good draw,” Fredricks said.
Irish Fest also will include the release of the book and documentary “Irish in Janesville,” which was co-produced by the Rock County Historical Society with Dave Haldiman of Vision Forge Productions in Madison. A release party for the book and documentary will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the Pontiac Convention Center, 2809 N. Pontiac Drive. Both items will be available for purchase beginning Saturday at the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum, 426 N. Jackson St. in Janesville.
Michael Reuter, executive director for the Rock County Historical Society, said the historical society was pleased to be involved with the project.
“It’s a partnership that made sense for the Rock County Historical Society,” Reuter said. “Irish Fest will bring together a lot of community groups. It’s an opportunity for us to reach out to different people. Irish heritage is a strong fabric of the community, and it’s an opportunity for people to learn about their heritage…We appreciate the Irish Fest co-founders, Elizabeth Horvath and Dan Fredricks, for allowing us to be involved with the event. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Other highlights of the festival include the Irish ballroom dance party, Forward Janesville’s Irish piper’s ball, Leprechaun Dash, downtown sidewalk sale, American Irish variety show, Irish dance showcase and Mercy O’Asis Family Fun Festival.
Fredricks said organizers have been working on the festival for about a year. He said they plan to make Irish Fest an annual event.
“It’s been pretty interesting getting everybody involved and finding people to work with,” Fredricks said. “It’s pretty fun to be involved with a new idea to see if you can do it.”
For more information about the festival, go online to www.janesvilleirishfest.com.