It isn't the "Emerald Isle," but Dublin will offer up a slice of Ireland during its annual Irish festival that kicks off Friday.

The festival, which runs 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, will be held on 27 acres in Coffman Park. About 100,000 visitors are expected to check out Irish heritage through music, dancing, games, food and more.

"I would say we're expecting 100,000 (people)," said Dublin's director of community relations, Sandra Puskarcik. "That was our goal last year and it is our goal this year."

Admission to the event is $10 at the gates and $7 for senior citizens age 60 and over. Children 12 and under are free.

Parking for the festival at Coffman Park, 5600 Emerald Parkway, is free. Shuttles will be provided free of charge to and from the following parking locations: OCLC, 6565 Kilgour Place; Dublin Coffman High School, 6780 Coffman Road; Dublin schools' administration building; 7030 Coffman Road; Verizon, 5175 Emerald Parkway; Cardinal Health, 7000 Cardinal Place; and Fiserv, 6000 Perimeter Drive.

Bicycle parking also will be available west of the Dublin Community Recreation Center and at Coffman High School.

While getting there might be easy, making a schedule of activities could be difficult.

Eclectic music offerings

The Irish festival boasts seven stages, 65 acts and 240 performances over three days.

Puskarcik said the music at the event is diverse.

"La Bottine Souriante are from Canada. They're French-Celtic and high energy. Another big band with high energy is Salsa Celtica," she said. "They're two Celtic bands with world influence. We're really trying to diversify the entertainment lineup."

While Pogey, Screaming Orphans, Street Dogs and Bua are among the new music offerings, several bands are returning.

"Some of the bands we're bringing back by popular demand," Puskarcik said. "We have Brigid's Cross, the Celtic Tenors, Prodigals (and) Gaelic Storm."

In the Celtic Music House on Friday, visitors can get a closer look at the artists at the singer/songwriter music circle at 7 p.m.

"As the festival has really grown over the years and stages have gotten bigger, we make sure to provide guests with the opportunity to experience Irish music in a more intimate setting," Puskarcik said.

The singer/songwriter circle will allow performers to tell the story behind their music.

"We hope when people attend this, it's not only to listen to music but to truly learn about Ireland," Puskarcik said.

Other stages featuring music and entertainment at the festival include the Scotts Miracle-Gro Dublin stage on the north end of the festival grounds that will feature headline acts and local performers who concentrate on Irish tradition. At the Killian's Celtic Rock stage on the south end of the festival, music that mixes Irish roots with rock, rap, punk and reggae will rule the stage. The Time Warner Trinity Stage offers more traditional and folk music while the Tim Hortons Thunder and Theater Stage will have dancing and other artistic performances.

The IGS Energy Ceili Dance tent will have both performances and opportunities for visitors to try some steps. The Celtic Music House will offer a more intimate setting with solo and duo acts, and the Shamrock Pub will have central Ohio musicians.

Despite more than 200 performances slated for the three-day event, Puskarcik said space for some performances has been increased.

"What we have done is increase viewing sizes for stages so for the Trinity and Shamrock Pub stages, we've made the tents around them larger," she said.

Activities for all ages

Music and dance won't be the only activities getting people in the Irish spirit.

In the Wendy's Wee Folk Area, children can make Celtic crafts for free or learn about Ireland's infamous lady pirate, Grace O'Malley.

In the Pot O'Gold Playland, a $10 wristband will provide unlimited play on a climbing wall, inflatable castles and junior Gaelic games.

On the Wee Folk Fun Stage, children can listen to tales about leprechauns, fairies, banshees and other Irish lore from storytellers. An Irish magic show and Pirate MacGregor also will be on hand to entertain children in the Wee Folk area.

On Sunday, contests for the reddest hair, greenest eyes and most freckles will be held at 3:30 p.m. at the Wee Folk Fun Stage. Participants can compete in the age groups of 8 and under, ages 9 to 17 and 18 and older. Participants should arrive 30 minutes before the contests.

Animal lovers will get a chance to see six Kerry Bog ponies Saturday and Sunday.

The Celtic Canine area will have demonstrations on grooming and training as well as history on dogs including the Irish wolfhound, Irish setter, Irish terrier, Irish water spaniel and more.

There will be Irish demonstrations of sheepherding with canines from 2:30 to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Tansky Sawmill Toyota Greenfields Sports area. Jenkins Border Collies will demonstrate sheep herding skills still used in Ireland.

Also in the sports area will be Celtic games, including the caber and sheaf toss and open stone throw.

Puskarcik said the sporting events are organized by Mid-Atlantic Scottish Athletics through Heavy Events.

"They actually go to other festivals," she said. "This is an exhibition that they put on."

Athletes will compete in sports such as the sheaf toss, stone weight for height and open stone throw, which is likened to shot put.

Visitors also can see the caber toss in which athletes pick up and throw a tree trunk ranging in length from 18 to 21 feet. According to Heavy Events, the athletes try to flip the caber so it stands straight up and down, but they are awarded points for other flips and the distance of the throw.

Sporting events will be going on in the sports area from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Sunday services

From 9:30 to 11 a.m. Sunday, admission to the festival is free with the donation of a canned good, benefiting the Dublin Food Pantry. On Sunday morning, visitors can continue to learn about Irish culture through Mass.

A Mass spoken in Gaelic will be held at 10:15 a.m. at the Dublin stage. Other worship includes Mass at 10:15 a.m. at the Celtic rock stage, a 10:15 a.m. interdenominational service at the Trinity stage and Mass at 10:45 a.m. at the Thunder and Theater stage.

The services will be led by local priests and pastors.

"We expect about 10,000 people to come in the gates Sunday before 11 a.m.," Puskarcik said. "It's one of the reasons we've expanded the number of services we have.

"It's a nice way to start a Sunday on festival grounds with a service or breakfast. Families can walk the grounds when it's a little more quiet."

Arts and eats

Irish festival visitors can find mementos at the Emerald Isle or marketplace, whether it's a kilt, garden stone or painting.

Puskarcik said the marketplace committee has many applications to wade through and looks for something special.

"There is a lot of discussion about what should be there, what's not appropriate, introducing something new. They're not just looking for any vendor," she said. "They do a good job trying to keep it as cultural as possible."

Artists offer their wares in the Emerald Isle, while the marketplace has other Irish items such as kilts, leather goods and more.

"We split the marketplace area 10 years ago when we saw we were getting artists for the marketplace," Purskarcik said. "The Emerald Isle is an art festival within the festival. Everything there has been made by the artist in that booth. You can find one-of-a-kind things there and you can also find some expensive things there because it's art."

Food and beverage choices are quintessentially Irish. Food offerings include Irish stew, bangers, meat pies, corned beef and cabbage and more. Non-Irish food will be available as well.

Along with soft drinks and water, beer -- including the Dublin Irish Festival stout -- will be for sale. Whiskey and beer tastings also will be available.

With many choices in shopping and food, Puskarcik said the festival has come a long way. When the Irish festival began, Dublin had to ask vendors to come. Now the festival can be selective.

"It really changed and there has to be evaluation and selection for almost every area of the festival now," she said. "It's a good area for community engagement. We really rely on committees. People bring such rich knowledge to the table and that's what helps staff determine what decisions should be made."