14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest: Authentic Food, Drink, and Fun

There are quite a few months between now and September. That’s when the step dancing, bagpipes, Gaelic vittles, and flowing beer of the Indy Irish Fest comes to Military Park, the only time of year when every Indianapolis resident is an Irishman (or woman) at heart. Well, that’s not quite accurate. March, specifically March 17, is another time of year when your average Indy denizen can experience the luck o’ the Irish, and the Rathskeller Restaurant knows this. Sure, downtown Indianapolis has the parade, the greening of the canal, and all the other trimmings of the Indianapolis St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, but the Rathskeller will be hosting an Irish shindig of its own on Thursday, March 17, 2011: the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest. While other Indianapolis bars are throwing massive tent bashes of their own, the Rathskeller already has a Biergarten and plenty of outdoor seating without a bulky heated tent, so it’s a shoo-in for a bout of drunken green debauchery. Live music, authentic food, and cheap drink specials should make the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest an Indianapolis event to remember (though you probably won’t).

The party starts at noon, when Brian Cunningham and the Irish Aires take the stage. The Indianapolis band features the talents of Brian Cunningham, Leslie Selden, T.H. Gillespie, Chris Cunningham, and Indianapolis songstress Shannon Forsell. Cunningham grew up in Dublin before emigrating to the United States in 1977; he has performed at Hilbert Circle Theater, the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, and the American Cabaret Theater, and he recently went on a tour of Ireland with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. Leslie Selden is a classically trained fiddler whose work has appeared on a Hoosier Salon collection and in venues around Indianapolis. Keyboardist T.H. Gillespie has released several works of his “neo-Celtic” pieces, including A Celtic Christmas and St. Patrick Was a Pagan, and he has composed pieces for Dance Kaleidoscope and the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. Chris Cunningham, the band’s percussionist, is working on a degree from the University of Indianapolis, and many Indianapolis music fans are already familiar with Shannon Forsell, a jazz singer and manager of the Cabaret at the Connoisseur Room.

Video of The Woomblies performing “Use Me” in Indianapolis; the Woomblies will be performing at the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest at the Rathskeller


Following the performance of Brian Cunningham and the Irish Aires, the Irish Dancers of Indianapolis will display their graceful prowess to the Indianapolis people gathered at the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest. An Indianapolis non-profit organization, the Irish Dancers of Indianapolis were founded in 1977 and have been clogging strong ever since. The company is a branch of the Richens/Timm Academy, an Indiana school specializing in dance. At 5:00, a favorite fixture of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will delight St. Patty’s revelers at the Rathskeller: the Gordon Pipers. A common sight at the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race since the 60’s, the Gordon Pipers are an Indianapolis tradition. No other Indianapolis band at the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest can claim a step on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, but the Gordon Pipers earned that honor in 1996.

Video of the Gordon Pipers performing “Scotland the Brave” during the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade in 2007; the Gordon Pipers will be playing at the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest at the Rathskeller


The final two bands that will close out the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest should be familiar to Indy residents who like a good party. The Woomblies come on at 6:30, bringing their combination of well known covers and catchy originals to the Irish fray. The band formed in 2000 and toured the circuit of Indianapolis bars and Indianapolis nightlife venues, playing covers of Prince, Johnny Cash, and more, but in 2007 the Woomblies released their first album of original compositions. Their performance on Thursday should be ripe for the dancing. Following the Woomblies, Indianapolis’ most prolific cover band, Zanna-Doo, will close things out at the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest at 9:00. If you check out an Indy show calendar for any given week, you can bet that Zanna-Doo will have at least one or two performances lined up. All this experience has created a party band that can do one thing and one thing only: keep a crowd moving. And after Zanna-Doo leaves the stage, you can stick around the Rathskeller celebrating St. Patrick until the bar closes for the night.

Video of Zanna-Doo jamming to “Brick House” at the Rathskeller Restaurant in downtown Indianapolis; Zanna-Doo will be performing at the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest


While there are plenty of places to get your Irish fix on St. Patrick’s Day (just look at the hefty index of Indianapolis bars’ St. Patrick’s Day celebrations), the Rathskeller is the only one that offers the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest. Authentic Irish food like corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, soda biscuits, and more compliment the Emerald Isle drink specials on Guinness, Smithwicks, Half and Half, and Harp. While you’re gorging yourself on Celtic treats, take in the sweet Gaelic tones of Brian Cunningham and the Irish Aires, the Irish Dancers of Indianapolis, the Gordon Pipers, Woomblies, and Zanna-Doo. Tickets are absolutely free, so everyone can afford to attend. The Indianapolis restaurant kicks off the 14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest at noon on Thursday, March 17, 2011, so wear some green and don’t forget your dancing shoes.

14th Annual Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest
Thursday, March 17, 2011 at noon
Tickets: FREE
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The Rathskeller
401 E Michigan St
Indianapolis, IN 46204

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