Irish festival brings culture, history to Carbondale

By Gus Bode

Sunniya Marquez Daily Egyptian

It was cloudy and cold as people gathered at the Southern Illinois Irish Festival in Turley Park this weekend to celebrate Irish culture, food and music.

Despite the chilly temperatures, crowds numbering in the hundreds showed up to indulge in fish and chips, and traditional Gaelic music. The Festival was sponsored by the city of Carbondale and has been taking place at Turley Park for more than five years.


Murphysboro resident Sean Lilly said he has been coming to the festival for as long as he can remember.

“I really enjoy the culture, there are always entertaining people and good music,” Lilly said.

Lilly, who also came to represent the Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance, said it’s festivals like the Irish Festival that allow pagans in the southern Illinois region to come together and enjoy each other’s company, but is open to anyone.

Other groups that were present include Ancient Athletics, an organization out of Springfield that practices sports such as Caber Toss, which is Gaelic for fell tree. The game originated from a time when the Irish and Scottish were under English rule and were not allowed to practice with real weapons.

Tim Schweska, a member of the group from Springfield, said he has been competing for five years and enjoys participating in a sport that is considered an Irish tradition.

“We were here last year and had a great time, so I’m glad that we were invited out again by the city,” Schweska said.

There were individuals who dressed up during the festival to educate people on what Irish life was like before the turn of the century.


David Griffith, a period reactor from Herrin, who was dressed in a 17-century gentlemen’s outfit complete with breeches, wool tights and a green and gold embroidered jacket, said he dresses up every year because he enjoys being out displaying his pride.

Paul Thompson, a bagpipe player from Marion, has been playing the Great Highland bagpipes for more than 15 years. He was dressed in the traditional military bagpipe outfit sgorran, with a sgian du bh, which means “black knife” in Gaelic.

Among the crowds of people there were also pets at the festival. Carterville resident Allison Chamberlain brought her Irish wolfhound, a large dog that was breed to hunt wolves in Ireland. Chamberlain said she brought the dog to the festival because it is a unique and hard-to-obtain breed.

“We come out together and let the kids see him,” Chamberlain said, “It’s a good time for all.”

Reporter Sunniya Marquez can be reached at