Irish Cultural Foundation to honor festival founders
Founders of the Dublin event that brings more than 80,000 people to the city each year will be honored at the State House this week.
The Greater Columbus Irish Cultural Foundation will recognize the founders of the Dublin Irish Festival with the Irish Cultural Award Dec. 14.
Honorees are chosen by the foundation board, said Pat Kelley, the event's chairman.
"Our group, GCICF, has as a core mission the promotion and encouraging awareness and appreciation of Irish culture, history and traditions," he said via email.
The award will be presented at the Dec. 14 Irish Christmas Celebration in the Ohio State House rotunda. The event and award annually honor individuals or groups that help with the mission of the Irish Cultural Foundation, Kelley said.
Foundation Board member and Dublin Community Relations Director Sandra Puskarcik said Ann Richens was honored posthumously last year for the contributions her Irish dance company, Richen/Timm Academy of Irish Dance, has provided.
"They decided to honor her prior to her passing," Puskarcik said. "Before that it was people that had been instrumental in the greater Columbus area."
Dublin Irish Festival founders being recognized include Barbara Avery, Terrie Conrad, William Denihan, Jack Eggspuehler, Chuck Kranstuber, Bill Hayden, Noreen Hayden, Wally Maurer, Kay McGovern, Mary Margaret McClernon, Kitty Munger and Phil Price.
"There is no finer group to recognize this year than the festival founders on the occasion of their 25th year anniversary considering the outstanding growth of the Dublin Irish Festival into one of the most prestigious Irish festivals in North America," Kelley said.
Munger and McGovern have remained involved in the festival while a few founders have moved away or died.
"This has been a really special year for us and I probably speak for the other founders as well," Munger said.
"The 25th anniversary was amazing fun for all of us to reminisce and get together and talk about how far we've come," she said.
"To be honored for that is humbling for every one of us."
The Dublin Irish Festival started out as the Dublin 1/1000 celebration in 1988 to establish a connection between Dublin, Ohio, and Dublin, Ireland, as Dublin celebrated its first year as a city and Dublin, Ireland, celebrated its 1,000th anniversary, Munger said.
A concert and performance from Irish actors were planned for the first festival, but the move of the Columbus Feis Irish dance competition from the Franklin County Fairgrounds to Coffman High School is credited with giving the festival a chance.
For a few years volunteers organized the event that included an Irish dance contest and musical performances, but the city eventually took over the event that has grown to cover Coffman Park and draw more than 80,000 annually.
"I think the festival has made Irish culture accessible to a really, really large audience," Munger said.
"There are upwards to 90,000 people coming to an event," she said.
"That's an amazing number of people. I think that is the biggest thing. It had the ability to make it accessible to a large number of people."
The Irish Cultural Foundation's Irish Christmas Celebration starts at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 with a performance by the Shamrock Club Pipes and Drums. Dinner and the tribute to the Dublin Irish Festival founders will follow.