Think of the Dublin Irish Festival as being like Ireland, only smaller.

Think of the Dublin Irish Festival as being like Ireland, only smaller.

Today, Coffman Park is filled with tents, vendors are bringing in their wares and the entertainers are on their way to celebrate at Dublin's signature event.

The 22nd annual Dublin Irish Festival kicks off at 4 p.m. Friday and runs through 9 p.m. Sunday for three full days of all things Irish. The 2009 Dublin Irish Festival features three days of immersion in Irish culture, including seven stages hosting 64 acts and 240 performances throughout the weekend.

Thursday's pre-festival activities in Historic Dublin will offer a lively start to the weekend, with the Dub Crawl at 5 p.m. and the 4 Miler run or walk at 7 p.m.

The festival is one of the largest and most well-respected celebrations of Irish culture in the world, and weekend attendance is expected to top 100,000 people this year.

The festival also builds relationships with community partners, from our corporate sponsors to the volunteers who help behind the scenes.

In fact, it takes the dedication and service of more than 1,200 volunteers to help the city produce this internationally recognized, family-friendly event. Their service as ambassadors to our community is immeasurable as they welcome guests, sell tickets, deliver beverages and ice, and perform dozens of other duties that keep operations running smoothly.

The festival is more than just a celebration, though. It significantly boosts the Dublin economy and gives back to the community.

Our longtime partnership with the Dublin Convention and Visitors Bureau increases the exposure of the festival and, in turn, provides revenue to local businesses as out-of-town guests are drawn to Dublin. This year, seven bus tours will make a stop at the Dublin Irish Festival and hotel rooms throughout the city have been booked for months.

Businesses and organizations seeking to promote their brands and enhance revenue have discovered that building relationships through event partnerships offers a great return on investment with the benefit of on-site marketing.

In turn, more than $631,000 was generated last year through the sponsorship program, which was used to offset production costs of the festival.

Sponsorship opportunities also are available through the Emerald Club and the Celtic Rock Stage. Proceeds from the VIP membership costs go toward annual scholarships for high school students and general festival operating costs.

Community organizations benefit by raising money through the festival's Beverage Server Fundraising program. In ex-change for their service, the groups receive 15 percent of beverage sales earnings. This year, 25 organizations are participating in the program, from the Dublin Counseling Center to the Balgriffin Homeowners Association. In 2008, more than $83,000 went back to similar groups.

Whether contributing to the operating fund of one of these organizations or building a relationship with a corporate partner, the Dublin Irish Festival provides a one-of-a-kind experience.

We are proud to host the Dublin Irish Festival and unite the community with a lively, world renowned celebration that is "like Ireland, only smaller."

Sandra Puskarcik is Dublin's director of community relations.