Friday, March 14, 2014

Clare's Irish Festival

[editor's note: On Monday, March 17 at 7:00 pm in the Park Library Auditorium, the Clarke will welcome William Rapai, author of of The Kirtland's Warbler: The Story of a Bird's Fight Against Extinction and the People Who Saved It. At a time when the world is seeing many species go extinct, the Kirtland’s warbler, whose population became dangerously low in the 1970s, is not just a survivor, it’s a rock star. The story of this intriguing bird is a stirring example of how strong leadership, vision, commitment, sustained effort, and cooperation can come together to protect our natural world. A reception will be held in the Clarke following the presentation.]

Clare's Irish Festival

by Casey O'Gamble and Bryan McWhitledge

Clare Sentinel, February 11, 1976, p. 1

The small town of Clare, Michigan is more than well known for its adoration of St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish. The weekend-long event is filled with Leprechaun contests, races, craft shows, live music, and plenty of green beverages to go around at the Doherty Hotel. But when did all of the fun begin?

Clare Sentinel, March 16, 1993, p. 1
Clare didn’t always have an Irish name; The county was first called KaykaKee after a Sauk Indian Chief. Then, in 1843, when an Irish surveyor came to the land, he decided to name the county after his homeland of County Clare in Ireland. The town took the name Clare when it was founded in the early 1870s. It would be more than 100 years before the townsfolk really began to embrace Clare’s Irish history. In 1976, the Clare Chamber of Commerce decided to adopt the Irish theme for the city. They began promoting it on billboards, in window displays, and giving Clare its official Shamrock symbol. The theme has stuck around for 42 years, and the crowd during the week of St. Patrick’s Day seems to grow bigger (and greener) every year.

The evolution of the Clare Irish Festival from the mid-1970s through today has been featured in the pages of the Clare Sentinel. Fortunately, these pages are available to researchers all over the world with just a few keystrokes into a web browser and a couples clicks of a mouse. A search of “Irish Festival” and “Clare” in the CONDOR historical newspaper database yields 334 results! You can read all about the history of the Clare Irish Festival or any other event with this website.

Clare Sentinel, March 20, 1990, p. 1
The Irish Festival is a weekend you can’t miss, especially if you are a native to Clare. People come from all over the area to join the party, don green attire, and have a grand time reminiscing about Clare’s Irish connections. Thanks to resources like the historical Clare Sentinel, the celebrations will be recorded in history and accessible to researchers from Clare County, Michigan to County Clare, Ireland.