Kicking off St. Patrick’s Day festivities a little early, Iowa Irish Fest committee members hosted the “State of the Fest” event at the Courtyard by Marriott in Waterloo tonight to celebrate success, share growth plans and announce the 2019 entertainment lineup.
Last year, Iowa Irish Fest attracted 48,389 people from the Cedar Valley, throughout Iowa and the Midwest, and continues to draw more people from around the U.S. and world. It is becoming one of the most renowned Celtic fests in the nation.
Chad Shipman, director of Iowa Irish Fest said, “I’m excited to announce the festival is moving south! Nobody panic; we are just expanding our festival footprint by four city blocks to the southwest to add another entertainment stage on Sycamore Street and activities in Newton’s Park. We’re also expanding the LSB MercyOne stage at Lafayette and Fourth Streets to bring larger productions to that stage. We’ve substantially increased our entertainment budget and will provide 2019 festgoers world-class entertainment on seven stages with 22 bands and 55 entertainment acts.
Celebrating Successful Growth
Jim Walsh, president of the Iowa Irish Cultural Association and one of the founders of Iowa Irish Fest, reminisced about the first Iowa Irish Fest 13 years ago, noting it started on a much smaller scale. Walsh gave kudos the fest committee for its sustainable growth plan, incrementally growing the festival a little more each year from proceeds of the previous year, while leaving some reserves in their rainy-day fund.
State of the Fest 2019/2
“Over the years, the committee added events to the festival like the 5K race and rugby and soccer tournaments, which brought additional athletes, family and spectators to the Cedar Valley and Iowa Irish Fest,” said Walsh. “Adding these types of events is a smart way to grow a festival.”
This year, the USA Softball of Iowa Men’s Slow Pitch State Tournament is also coming to the Cedar Valley during Iowa Irish Fest.
Fostering Irish Culture and Education
“From the Sunday Mass and Highland Games to Irish Whiskey tastings and all the Irish cultural activities added each year, I am proud of how this festival fosters Irish fellowship and education,” said Walsh. “This year, we’ve expanded our cultural area footprint substantially—dedicated an entire street—to offer more educational and cultural workshops. Attendees can take a stroll down “Culture Event Street,” grab an Irish coffee, enjoy artists at work, watch weavers and blacksmiths, learn a new language or learn more about their ancestry.”
Cedar Falls Mayor Jim Brown agreed with Walsh, and said, “This festival is rich with cultural experiences and world-class entertainment. It not only draws visitors to both Waterloo and Cedar Falls, it adds value by making the Cedar Valley an even more attractive region in which to live, work and play. Cedar Valley residents help make this event be successful through being Iowa Irish Fest business sponsors — special thanks to presenting sponsor Veridian Credit Union — and a round of applause for the dedicated group of volunteers who operate the fest.”
Volunteers from the Iowa Irish Fest were recognized with a “Governor’s Volunteer Award in 2018” and the Fest has also received the “2011 Cedar Valley Partner” Award from the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber. It won the “2013 Event of the Year” Award from the Cedar Valley Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, due to the Fest’s tourism and economic impact.
Boosting the Cedar Valley’s Economy
“Festival attendees bring their dollars to the Cedar Valley for Iowa Irish Fest … staying in our hotels, eating at our restaurants, shopping in our stores and visiting our attractions,” said Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart. “Over the past 13 years, Iowa Irish Fest committee and festival visitors have poured millions of dollars into our local economy—more than $1.5 million last year alone. And, for that, we are most grateful. I personally want to welcome all to the City of Waterloo for this affordable, family-friendly festival. While you vacation in our wonderfully diverse and hospitable community, please take the time to visit our amazing museums, dine in our acclaimed restaurants and if you need to cool off, check out Lost Island Waterpark—it’s been named one of the top ten waterparks in the nation.”
Mayor Hart also thanked the Iowa Irish Fest for assisting the community by giving to charities. He mentioned that the festival committee gave Sunday Mass goodwill donations to St. Vincent DePaul and meals collected from their canned food drive to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.
State of the Fest 2019/3
Expanding the Festival Lineup
“Many fest fans let us know they missed having Scythian play our fest last year,” said Shipman. “We’re happy to announce Scythian will be headlining Friday night, along with fan favorite Gaelic Storm, headlining Saturday and Sunday. We have an amazing lineup of 55 entertainment acts and have added extra seating for you near our large stages.”
Other festival activities include High Nelly Bike Rally, Celtic Cruise, Fest Opening Parade, a family fun and learning area, contests, Celtic vendors, Sunday brunch, Irish breakfasts, food stands, beer gardens, pop-up bars and much more.
“We’re blessed to have many awesome companies in the Cedar Valley,” said Shipman. “Many companies have become our partners and sponsors — and we thank them all. New this year, we’re offering an Employer Perks program to allow Cedar Valley businesses to reward their employees with a fantastic Iowa Irish Fest experience.”
Shipman said they are also rewarding fest VIPs with a revamped program, including up-and-close experiences with entertainers and access to the VIP Experience Deck, a sky-deck bar being brought in from the East Coast.
Calling for Volunteers
“We have more than 70 festival volunteer chairs working year-round to bring the Cedar Valley this great festival,” said Shipman. “As this festival continues to grow, our need for more volunteers grows. Please visit our newly launched website and become one of our 1,400 volunteers. You can also take advantage of our March promotion for ticket packages, including our St. Paddy’s 5for$50 package—get five tickets for $50.
Trent Hunter announced free admission throughout this year’s fest will be provided to active-duty military, veterans and emergency first responders, including fire and police. A special area will be designated at the festival for these heroes to congregate. And to make this fest even more affordable for families, kids 15 and under will be admitted free, versus kids 12 and under admitted for free in previous years.
About Iowa Irish Fest
The annual Iowa Irish Fest is organized by the Cedar Valley Irish Cultural Association, an organization intended to foster and develop Irish fellowship and outreach into the community with Irish cultural events and programs. The 2019 Iowa Irish Fest will be held August 2 through August 4 in downtown Waterloo. Please visit www.IowaIrishFest.com to see the full entertainment lineup, purchase tickets or sign up to volunteer.