A Continuous blog about the week around organizing the 24th Annual Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival – It goes from the bottom up, from oldest to today.
Tuesday July 18th
It all started out so well. Got up early, got a lot of paperwork caught up, did the radio show with Gerry Glennon on Midwest Irish Radio and raced out to the grounds to meet the stage rental setup crews. Location, location, location – very important to have the stages in the right places.
Then off to the Celtic Heritage Hall building to begin the unloading, assembling and placing of the props, easels and walls that hold the more than 200 varied and colorful displays.
I got them all set up, ready for the arrival of all the foam core boards filled with displays on anything and everything – new favorites include Newgrange, Irish-Americans in Hollywood, The Connemara Pony, The Fighting 69th, 8 Decades of Mickey Rooney and much more.
My back is on fire, but we are making great progress. The guys wheel out the monster Irish cottage from storage, which doubles as the storage shed, off-season, for the easels and walls. I empty it out, assemble the easels, which range from 4 foot to 8 foot high, and arrange them in semi circles and lanes, based on the set up plan. Easels, easels everywhere, all arranged in this years plan, at least until all the displays are out and the final look forces a few moves. The plan is on time.
Tomorrow all the displays themselves are unpacked and the setup really begins. After stopping for a beer with my B in Law Phil and Bichl, Tommy, Rich and Ben, who put up all the tents at the festival (Lucky for us, Phil owns and operates Tip Top Tents) it is back to the unpacking and making the cultural hall cosmetically nice while adding to the presentation of the Irish culture and heritage. I head home when I can no longer bend over – my back is seriously locked up and stiff as a board – so after finding a great salami and cheese sandwich left in my car for me, Mystery Chef dropped me a present! Mmmmmmmm. I head home. Boy this place is going to look differnt come Friday!
After about 2 hours of clearing email, answering phone calls, coordinating with dad a few hotel last minute changes etc I am starting to feel a little looser. Then on to cutting up more of that infamous Velcro, cut to size for all of the literally dozens of pop, beer, tickets, hours, stage names, times, locations and more, signs that we put up for the weekend – we put the velcro on before, so the mounting on beverage trucks, pop stands, tents and anything else, is quick. My Irish twin sister (11 months older than me) comes over, with 4 of her 5 kids, plus another of my nieces and they help me finish up the last of the displays and then Velcro the beer, pop and ticket signs for me – life is good! I had visions of a very late nite doing that. The last of the new displays are gathered, fine tuned and then packed into large 40 x 60 cases for transport to the grounds.
Hopefully a few volunteers will show up tomorrow to help get all the displays out and arranged. Only 3 days till the fest begins. Nervous? NAH Me and immigration get along GREAT and we will pray and work hard to make sure that is true this year – please pray yourself that all the non-U.S. performers can get in. The kids all head off to the hot tub while I finish loading the car and my sister goes and gets the missing child. More emails and returned phone calls after the kids head home. Still praying on immigration. Please Pray, pray, pray. The sched will undergo massive changes if all the bands cant get thru, even if any of them cant, and the trickle down effect is extensive. The 16 page program book has obviously already gone to print at this point, so we wont be able to change that. All the stage signs are velcroed, so we can switch them around as needed, but people arent going to walk all nine stages to find out where we switched their favorite band, to cover any open slots due to 1, 2, or 5 bands not getting thru immigration.
Another B in Law arrives into town and wants to grab a beer – well twist my arm. A few beers, a few wings, and then the phone rings.
Where are ya, wanna go for a beer? says another B in Law, Phil.
Me and Lang are at the Public House now.
Oh Good, were in the parking lot.
And in comes Phil. Home by midnite – ish. Sort of.
And So It Goes:
Monday, July 17th
And So it Begins:
Well, it really began last October, when we had our first wrap up meeting from the 23rd Annual Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival. A discussion of what went well, what didn’t, and what we need to do differently for the 2006 edition was followed by ideas and requests from the committee for what charities to donate to. Make-A-Wish Foundation, Holy Family Cancer Home, and West Side Catholic Center were among those selected. More than $350,000 has been donated to local and national charities since the first festival, held in 1983.
Then the work for the 2006 festival began. Gathering new display material for the cultural hall is my main focus. The other responsibilities, like the website, program book; schedule, mass and other printing material, workshops and presentations, the Abbey Theatre program and sched, the kids area programming and sched, the MC and entertainer communications and packages and such don’t kick in for a few more months. We try to be as ahead of the game as possible, letting each know exactly what is happening/needed and when.
My dad, who is the director (and founder) of the festival, is busy on booking bands, PR initiatives, etc.. We try to hit 10 or 12 other festivals each year, for screening bands, getting new ideas and the great sharing of knowledge that occurs with other festival directors and staffs. The cultural hall has grown so much in the last 5 years, since I was asked to design and develop the exhibits for it, with over 200 exhibits on anything and everthing there is to celebrate and/or acknowledge about our heritage. It is 1:30 a.m. and time for lites out. I am going to bed.
back to it. I have to finish packing up all the displays, to be transported to the grounds. 20 plus cases from 5′ x 6′ now to 18″ x 24″ are all getting sorted and boxed.
All the signage – everything from enter and exit signs to stage lineups and where to go for what, are all splayed out, organized and fitted with velcro for instant application on site. I grab 3 or 4 of my young nephews and go around the grounds putting up all the signs and banners, mostly with velcro – that wondrous material, or with rope – we got away from duck tape a fair few years ago, thank God.
Now on to me dear ould folks house, to move all the stored up supplies, to get ready for transport. Oh me ACHING back. On to Byrne Sign, to pick up the aforementioned velcro, that stuff is EXPENSIVE, but we have a new supplier, Byrne, who gave us a great price and really worked hard to find what we needed – great guy that Paul.
Got a call from Gerry Glennon, a fantastic DJ at Midwest Irish Radio, who had finally gotten my new book, Festival Legends: Songs & Stories, sent to him in early May. He invited me to go on his show tomorrow, at 3:00 Irish time (10:00 EST, U.S.). I listen to the show ALL the time and really excited about that. Will talk about the book and the festival. It is www.midwestirishradio – 24/7 music and events in Ireland and around the Irish Diaspora ( if I am using that word right).
Back to the folks, for a bite, with them and one of my sisters family – great future volunteers – those kids don’t know WHAT they are in for! Then off to a meeting with the videogrpaher, we are taping several of the presentations, like Tommy Makem on the Ballad Tradtion, Johnny McEvoy on All Our Wars Are Merry, All Our Songs Are Sad, and Alec DeGabriele, on the Fit-ups Life. plus lots of the other fest highlites, like Dogs Native to Ireland, Pipe Bands, 9 stages, dance schools, workshops, children’s area, cultural hall and more. The videographer is a sharp guy, with such an appealing desire to do a good job. Say a prayer the tapes come out well. Really want to preserve these legends, live in action. Finally, home again, clear the 120 emails on the fest and then catch up some of the paperwork. Grabbed some of the supplies needed tomorrow – my first day at the grounds themselves, even tho my B in L Phil and my dad have been out there a lot – started on Sunday with the banners and lights being put up.
A quick hello to my MySpace friends and then time to crash, it is not too bad, only 11:30.
Sunday, July 16th
New Blog of what’s coming/going on – from an Organizer’s perspective
Only 5 days till the 24th Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival!
Started by my father, and a group of incredibly dedicated, creative and engaging volunteers, which now number over 425, the festival is a living passion, to present, promote and preserve our wonderful Irish heritage.
So, each day you will find a daily recap, from Monday July 17th thru Thursday, July 20th, then again, when I return after the weekend itself, with a recap of the weekend festival, and the week long pre, and post festival activities, going thru the cleanup on Monday, July 24th. Lots of pics, if I am able, will be included but the blogs will mainly talk about what it is like and what happens, from a behind the scenes, organizers perspective.
I will add the day’s blog to the previous days post, so watch out for that.
Hope you enjoy, pray for great weather for us and keep cool.