The Irish celebrate

The Lafayette Hotel ballroom was once again filled with the sights, sounds and tastes of Ireland Sunday during the 33rd annual Irish Gathering, sponsored by the Monsignor Donal O’Carroll Division of the Ohio Ancient Order of Hibernians.

The event is held every year on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day.

“Part of our mission is to promote traditional Irish culture, and this is notably a time when people of Irish background get together and celebrate. And we open this event to the public because we want everyone to participate,” said Jim Udell, president of the area Hibernian group.

He said although the Monsignor Donal O’Carroll Division is based in Marietta, members hail from five or six parishes spread across three counties in Ohio and West Virginia.

David and Wanda Farris of Marietta joined in-laws Jim and Yvonne Williams from the Dalzell area for the Irish celebration.

“We’ve been to the Dublin festival in Columbus in the fall, but this is our first time here,” David said. “We just decided to come out together.”

It was the third Irish Gathering for David and Judy Snow of Athens.

“I’m not Irish, but I really enjoy the Irish music and dancers,” David said.

Judy agreed.

“And we get to meet a lot of people here,” she said. “We have a good time just talking and visiting every year.”

For the past decade The Boys of the Hock, a four-man Celtic band out of Athens, has provided traditional tunes for the Irish Gathering.

“We play all over Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It’s basically ‘diddley-diddley’ (quick-time) Celtic instrumental music,” said Rusty Smith who plays guitar for the band.

The group, including Smith, fiddler Lynn Shaw, Sean O’Malley on the flute, and Ed Newman on hammered dulcimer, has been performing together for 20 years now.

“We play a lot of Irish festivals and gatherings, including the Columbus festival in August,” Smith said.

The Athens Irish Dancers put the music to good use every year, performing a variety of Irish dance styles as The Boys of the Hock played on.

Dancers in the group range in age from 3 years old to adult, including some students from Ohio University.

OU sophomore Kati Conlon, from Pittsburgh, joined the Irish dance troupe shortly after moving to Athens to attend college.

“I’m a history major, but I’ve also been dancing for about 11 years now, so I joined the group just for fun,” she said.

For the last few years the Irish Gathering has also included several vendors who sell a variety of Celtic-related wares, including ceramic art objects designed by Kelly Kalfs Lawrence, owner of Green Mantle Studio in Athens, and lace, doilies, handmade cards, twig pencils and jewelry from Mary Ann Abbott’s A Very Mary Design in Marietta.

Laura Serna of Marietta baked up some treats for sale at the gathering.

“I sell scones, shortbread and tea,” she said. “I did this last year, too, and sold out of everything.”

The Irish Gathering also includes plenty of other Irish foods, according to Marshall Griffin, financial secretary for the local Ancient Order of Hiberians group.

“We have corned beef and cabbage, ham, potatoes, salads, and bread pudding for dessert,” he said. “The hotel prepares the meal every year for us.”

Udell said the group plans for about 180 people to attend every year, and usually more than 100 show up. He said most of the funding raised from ticket sales goes to pay expenses for the event.

“We may break even,” he said. “But this is really a community event for us to share with the public, rather than a fundraiser.”