The city is abuzz with activity, and at this time of the year that means one thing: the Dublin Irish Festival is here.

The city is abuzz with activity, and at this time of the year that means one thing: the Dublin Irish Festival is here.

As tens of thousands of people flock to Dublin for what has become the world's second largest Irish festival, it is hard not to feel the excitement as the 21st festival gets under way.

What started as a gathering on the tennis courts in Coffman Park, the Dublin Irish Festival is one of a kind, spanning 27 acres with three days packed full of entertainment, food, drink and shopping. More than 100,000 people are expected to be on hand to join in the celebration.

The festival officially starts tomorrow (Friday, Aug. 1), but tonight's Dub Crawl activities, beginning at 5 p.m. in the BriHi District, offer a robust pre-game style start to the weekend. It's the perfect way to whet your appetite for all things Irish.

Eateries, bars and shops in Historic Dublin will come alive with extended hours Thursday evening for the annual Dub Crawl. Now a signature event on the eve of the Dublin Irish Festival, entertainers abound, from people on the streets to stages in many of the restaurants and pubs.

Hard to miss will be the more than 700 runners participating in the Dublin Irish Festival Four Miler.

A new name and new distance, the race -- formerly a 5K -- starts at 7 p.m. A keystone event, participants of all ages will join the fun as The Capital City Pipes and Drums energize the participants and crowd along the route.

Festival gates officially open at 4 p.m. Friday on the grounds of Coffman Park and stay open until midnight. Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday the festival runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday services are offered at 10:15 and 10:45 a.m.

Tickets are available at the gate, but can be purchased online. For pricing and parking information, see DublinIrishFestival.org, where an interactive schedule of events by stage and day is also available.

With entertainers from far and wide -- including Ireland, to be sure -- there is plenty to take in for adults and children alike during the three-day extravaganza.

The festival features seven stages, sporting fields and exhibit tents with performers and participants of all kinds. Be sure to see the following events for a well-rounded experience:

Cornhole Tournament, 6 p.m., Friday, Greenfields Sports Area. Open throws from 4-5:30 p.m.

Dedication Ceremony Parade, 6-6:15 p.m., Friday, festival grounds, ending at the Time Warner Trinity Stage prior to the Dedication Ceremony.

Fies Dance Competition, 8 p.m., Friday, IGS Energy Ceili Dance tent.

Creating Celtic Designs for Beginners workshop, 3 p.m., Saturday, Cultural Workshop Tent.

The StepCrew dance performance, 5 p.m., Saturday. This Celtic-inspired dance production features the world's top talents in Irish, Ottawa Valley and modern tap dancing.

Gaelic Storm, 10 p.m., Saturday, Dublin Stage. A must-see, show-stopping Celtic performance featuring traditional Irish melodies and acoustic instrumentation.

Bagpipe Showcase, 11:30 a.m., Sunday, Greenfields Sports Area.

Storyteller Alan Irvine turns Irish tales, 3 p.m., Sunday, Spoken Word Stage.

Festival Finale, 8:15 p.m., Sunday, Dublin Stage. A culmination of the weekend, the performance features musicians from throughout the weekend on one stage.

Many of the performances listed above occur at multiple times throughout the weekend; visit DublinIrishFestival.org for a complete schedule.

Whether a seasoned Dublin Irish Festival guest, or a first-timer, by this time next week, you'll be among the thousands counting down the days to next year's merrymaking. The festival is a cultural event celebrating the heritage of the Irish and the community of Dublin -- and an experience to be treasured.

Sandra Puskarcik is Dublin's director of community relations.

Sandra

Puskarcik