The Friends of Irish Studies in the West is taking over Missoula’s popular Celtic Festival and rebranding it as Fáilte Montana Festival.
The festival, noon-10 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at Caras Park, will feature Irish and Irish/Americana fusion music, dancers, games, local food vendors, beer/hard seltzer/wine, and Irish/Celtic-themed goods.
The rollicking Irish band JigJam headlines the festival, which also includes performances by the Celtic Dragon Pipe Band, Thorns Among Roses, Wild Potatoes, and Second Wind. The Missoula Irish Dancers will take a spirited turn or two on stage, the Thomas Meagher Hurling Club will present a hurling demonstration and a children’s area will offer games and entertainment for the younger set.
According to festival chair Danette Rector, organizers of the original festival approached the Friends of Irish Studies when the Celtic Festival disbanded and encouraged them to continue its legacy. “We saw it as a great way to promote the Friends of Irish Studies program in Missoula as well as Montana,” Rector says.
FIS helps support and grow the Irish Studies program at the University of Montana, and also offers evening language classes for students and adults, immersion weeks, festivals, trips to Ireland, and other cultural events, including a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in March.
As to the name change, Rector explains that the word Fáilte (pronounced FAW-il-teh in English) means welcome in Irish and is frequently used to greet someone and express pleasure at seeing them.
“We chose the word to express our welcome to people and our joy at being able to come together and celebrate together after having been isolated and separated for so long during the pandemic,” she says.
The free family-friendly festival showcases Montana’s rich legacy of Irish history and culture. It also affords the Friends of Irish Studies in the West an opportunity to heighten awareness of UM’s Irish Studies program. “Our long-term goal is to transform the program into a national center of Irish and Irish American studies which will attract students from all over America,” Rector says.
Fáilte! Learn more at the festival’s website.