The first annual Fairfield County Irish Festival was held in 1988 at Roger Ludlowe Field in Fairfield. In addition to an enthusiastic sharing of all things Irish, its stated goal was to raise funds to benefit the Gaelic-American Club Building Fund. Dreams were for this building to come alive as a social and cultural center to celebrate Irish music, dancing, drama, history and art.
In reality, the origins for the festival actually began forty years earlier when a group of nine – some say eleven – Irish-born Bridgeport citizens got together to found the Gaelic American Club. Dances, picnics, Gaelic football matches and other Irish events attracted scores of new members. For a decade beginning in 1955 the Club held an annual outdoor Feis at Fairfield University.
Through the ensuing years membership rose to five hundred and the Club found homes in various rental locations in Bridgeport. In 1986, with a dwindling membership, the Club moved to Fairfield and, with a surge in interest about Irish history and life, membership soared to over one thousand. Thoughts of a place of its own and a festival to support this idea started to surface.
Photo: Cultural Tent performers.
From its inception, the Fairfield County Irish Festival has been a huge success and has become the premiere showcase of the best of Irish entertainment, food and a special hospitality that welcomes all who come during the weekend. With its success it became evident that the hospitality of the Festival should be extended to an organization dedicated to education and the generosity of charitable works.
To that end, FEILE, Incorporated was formed in 1989 and recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3) to continue the Festival, to promote an appreciation and awareness of Irish culture and to work, in concert with the Gaelic American Club, for the establishment of an Irish Cultural Center .
"Feile" is an Irish word (pronounced FAY-luh) that originally meant "feast" and was chosen as the name for the charitable organization because the word now has multiple meanings connoting "festival", "generosity" and "hospitality", the characteristics of Irish heritage so prominently on display at the Festival that could be taught, enjoyed and promoted throughout the year at a home for Irish heritage.
The site of the Fairfield County Irish Festival for the first thirteen years was on the grounds of the former Roger Ludlowe High School. When construction of a new school complex began, the Festival staged at Jennings Beach, Seaside Park and Indian Ledge Park before returning "home" to Fairfield on the campus of Fairfield University, where the Feis had been held two generations earlier.
This site has allowed expansion of the displays of Irish sports at the Festival, as well as to increase the entertainment, cultural displays and vendor offerings resulting in a resurgence in interest in this showcase of Irish culture. To a great degree, this is because the Festival operates only through the generosity of volunteers, primarily members of the Gaelic American Club, but also other people interested in this celebration of Irish culture, who gladly give of their time and talents.
"Fairfield County Irish Festival."
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1073 North Benson Road
Dates: June (contact sponsor)
Friday 6:00 pm – 10:45 pm
Saturday 12:00 pm – 10:45 pm
Sunday 12:00 pm – 7:45 pm
74 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
Phone: (203) 254-0673
Date(s): Founded 1988
The Irish experience has had a profound impact on Connecticut's past, and its narrative spans all periods of the state's history and touches every one of its eight counties and 169 towns.