By Kevin Collison
This weekend’s Kansas City Irish Fest, which kicks off tonight at Crown Center when The Maguire Brothers take the stage at 5 p.m., marks the end of an era in local music history.
For the last time, one of the region’s most popular musical groups of any genre, The Elders, will take the stage after performing for 16 consecutive years at the annual Labor Day weekend festival.
Throughout 2018, the band, whose collective ages finally have caught up with its name, has been on a farewell tour. Now it’s time to say good-bye to a festival that has done so much to fuel its success.
And this year, Irish Fest organizers will be giving Elders’ fans a double-dose.
In addition to closing out the festival as its done for many years, an extra performance has been added to tonight’s opening session at 9:30 p.m.
“They’ve been with us since the beginning,” said Chris Phelan, senior director of Irish Fest, “and we have a few surprises for the band.
“We and our partner, Boulevard Brewing, will help us send off the Elders by raising a parting glass to the band on Friday and Sunday.”
After 7 p.m. both nights, all Boulevard beers poured at the festival will be served in a commemorative 16-ounce cup bearing The Elders, Irish Fest and Boulevard logos.
Fans will be invited to hoist those green plastic cups and toast the band during the performance.
A special presentation also is planned for the group on Sunday thanking them for their 16 years as headliners at Irish Fest.
There’s plenty of other music as well with over 300 performers scheduled for the three-day event. The festival spreads the entertainment across 10 stages and covers all the Crown Center plaza, plus Grand Boulevard and Washington Square Park.
“We’ve got one of the most power house lineups we’ve ever had,” Phelan said.
Some of the more notable acts include Gaelic Storm, Red Hot Chili Pipers, The High Kings and We Banjo 3, a group that notably played in the blockbuster film “Titanic” entertaining Irish immigrants in steerage before the great ship met its doom.
Phelan added there’s good buzz about another group Doolin’. He said the French group resembles Mumford & Sons with their fresh, folksy Irish pop rock.
Other new adds to this year’s festival include a Boulevard “can bar” at the festival where some of its newer canned beers will be offered, and the introduction of Five Farms Irish Cream, an Irish Cream from County Cork that’s distributed by Holladay Distilling out of Weston.
And of special note to Elders fans, lead singer Ian Byrne will have a booth in the Art in the Park area of the festival where he’ll be selling his paintings.
“Irish Fest is for everyone,” Phelan said. “I moved here from Chicago eight years ago and the first thing I heard about was this event. It’s a place for families, kids, everyone.”
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