Songs of Ireland Fill Chesapeake Country

By Matthew Liptak

Chesapeake Country loves all things Irish. This weekend a beloved summer festival returns to Anne Arundel County for the first time since 2018. And a local jewelry store is supporting a group of young musicians who aim to bring championship bragging rights back from Ireland next month.

The Annapolis Irish Festival returns to the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds in Crownsville Saturday. The festivities are scheduled to include bands, beer, axe throwing, Irish wolfhounds, contests and even cricket lessons.

“We have a guy coming in who was a national cricket player,” said Jenn Williams, director of operations for ABC Events, the Annapolis firm who puts on the festival. “Not only is he going to be giving demonstrations, but he’s going to be teaching people how to play the game right there on site.”

The festival, which was interrupted by the pandemic, has been months in the making. Williams said they started planning for it at the end of 2021. She said the greater Annapolis area has been looking forward to this Saturday’s event. “Feedback has been great,” she said. ”We started with a promotion during the Annapolis St. Patrick’s Day parade in March.”

That float carried members of the Irish music band Hold Fast of Pennsylvania, who will be performing at the festival. Many other bands playing Irish tunes are on the lineup, which reaches its climax at 8 p.m., when the popular Celtic group Gaelic Storm takes the stage.

“Everybody is super excited,” says Williams. “It’s going to be a fantastic day.”

When it comes to traditional Celtic music, Annapolis shows its support all year long.

Zachary’s Jewelers on Main Street recently threw its support behind a trio of young singers that have been performing in front of the store. The three young girls have been busking outside the store to raise funds to attend a world championship competition in Mullingar, Ireland, in August.

The girls are part of the Baltimore-Washington Academy of Irish Culture Band which has qualified to compete at the All-Ireland Fleadh this year.

“They were fantastic,” says Evangeline Ross, Zachary’s Chief Experience Creator. “We are in a fishbowl at Zachary’s. We see thousands of people walking up and down the street each week. When you see someone out there doing something they love, you are respectful.”        

The store’s staff was moved to do more than just respect the girls’ talent.

“I think all of us were so captivated and wanted to do what we could to help,” says Ross. “They were actually surprised—like, ‘Why was this woman trying to help us?’ I explained to them that we are hugely community-centric.”

Zachary’s Jewelers is now all-in on the fundraising effort and Ross hopes other businesses might pitch in, too.

“They were out in front of the store (again) Thursday night,” Ross said. “One of the moms said there was a world of support.”

Keira, a fiddler who also plays the bodrhan (Irish drum), said the band is grateful. “We play right outside in downtown Annapolis, and we’re super excited to represent our hometown area at the world championships in Ireland,” she said.

Keep an ear out for poetic melodies and ancient Celtic rhythms while you’re out and about in July. Annapolis’ love affair with all things Irish is hitting a high note this summer.

Tickets for Annapolis Irish Festival:

Support Baltimore-Washington Academy of Irish Culture: