Historical Museum to host Irish Fest March 17
Music, dancing, games, workshops for kids and families

For immediate release February 26, 2008


Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Museum will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with an Irish festival featuring family-friendly music, singing, dancing workshops and more.

Irish Fest will be 1-4 p.m. March 17, 2008 at the State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines’ Historic East Village. Admission is free and open to the public. The festival coincides with the first day of Spring Break for thousands of Central Iowa students and follows the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade through downtown Des Moines. Irish Fest is sponsored by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Irish Clan, Dahl’s Stores and Target.

The festival will be highlighted by the following entertainment and activities:

Four Shillings Short Band
The Celtic, folk and world music duo, Four Shillings Short, is touring the United States this year playing concerts from Seattle to New Orleans. With a decade of touring the U.S. and Ireland under their belts, the husband-and-wife duo of Aodh Og O’Touma from Cork, Ireland and Californian Christy Martin live as full-time minstrels in their trusty van loaded with an ever-increasing array of musical instruments including hammered dulcimer, mandolins, Renaissance woodwinds, North Indian Sitar, recorders, tin whistles, banjo, guitar, percussion and even a bowed psaltery.

Irish Harpist Tim Britton of Fairfield (piper and penny whistle; featured artist on Iowa Roots)
Britton is among the foremost of a generation making innovative contributions to the Irish tradition. Although he is best known for his virtuosity on the rare Uillean pipes, wooden flute and tin whistle, he has been known to try his hand at the Highland pipes, mandolin and an occasional song or story. For nearly 30 years, he has been touring, teaching and recording, and has appeared on two dozen records with the likes of Mick Moloney, Eileen Ivers, Johnny Cunningham, Bela Fleck and many others. He was designated a master artist by the Iowa Arts Council in 1989 and was nominated for a “Best of Philadelphia Music Award.”

 Harper and Storyteller Darren Raleigh of Des Moines
Raleigh is a storyteller, harper and equity actor. He is an emergency medical services helicopter pilot for Methodist Hospital in Des Moines. He has made a living as a street harper and prefers the folklore and music of the Celtic nations, though he will tell any story that makes the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He is a member of Iowa Arts.

Foy School of Traditional Irish Dance
The Foy School was founded in 1974 in Chicago by Geraldine Foy. Every year, Foy dancers participate in competitions across the United States, Canada and Ireland. The Des Moines satellite location opened in 2004 and now includes more than 50 dancers. The Des Moines dancers have performed with the Trinity Irish Dance Company, The Glengarry Bhoys, and Gan Bua in Central Iowa. Other performances have included the 2006 Wells Fargo World Food Festival, Blank Children’s Hospital’s Festival of Trees and Lights, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, Des Moines Arts Festival and various community events.

Gwynne Burke – Puffin Puppets
Burke’s puppet workshop is a “hands-on” experience for everyone who takes her class. It is informational as well as experiential. With more than 100 puppets in her repertoire, children experience everything from sock puppets to marionettes. Children will be invited to create a take-along puppet of their own. She is a member of VSA Arts of Iowa.

Lynne Alex, Director of Education and Outreach, Office of the State Archaeologist
Wherever people wander, history is most likely buried right under their feet. Alex, an archaeologist and inveterate hiker, shares one of her favorite walking experiences on the Dingle Peninsula of western Ireland. Alex has worked at the OSA since 1991. Her career has taken her to the fjords of the Arctic Circle, Scotland’s Orkney and Shetland Islands, and the North American Great Plains. She has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and the University of Iowa. She is an author and, last year, hiked Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. She expects to make a return visit to western Ireland in 2008.

Janice Baker, Celtic dancing
Baker is an Assistant Professor in Dance, holding a BFA from the University of Utah and an MS from Kansas State University. A Des Moines native, Baker’s activities in the world of dance have influenced and nurtured all corners of the state and all ages and populations of Iowa’s moving human community. At ISU, Baker teaches classes in ballet, jazz, modern dance, tap, social and folk dance, pedagogy, elementary and secondary movement education, and rhythmic aspects of movement. She directs the ISU Dance Tour Company and is the faculty advisor for Orchesis II and the ISU Ballroom Company. She also teaches for the New Visions Dance Project and represented VSA Arts of Iowa at an international festival at the Kennedy Center.

Other activities will include spinning demonstrations and Irish language classes. Participants may also attend a workshop about Irish/Iowa genealogy and a presentation about the history of the Irish in Iowa and the United States. There also will be a curatorial presentation showcasing Irish artifacts held by the Historical Museum. Children’s programs include Puffin Puppet making, Cailee dance instruction, fairy and Irish keepsake crafts and cookie decorating. Irish fare will be available at Café Baratta’s (children’s menu available).

In addition, State Historical Museum conservators will install and unveil the Irish Harp National battle flag from its collection. Historians and conservators will discuss the flag’s history and its conservation treatment. The Historical Museum has in its collection more than 300 battle flags from the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I.


The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

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