Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Irish Festival Abandons Baltimore

Posted by David Keelan on Friday, August 11, 2006

This is an event that has been held in Baltimore city since 1974 – 32 years.

It is a great event and I encourage you to find time to attend.

Since that time the Irish Festival has had a number of homes in Baltimore.  They have most recently been holding the event at the 5th Regiment Armory.  However, they have spent a lot of time together over the years and decided it was time to part company.

The festival organizers struggled for the past 4 years looking for an adequate facility to host the event. 

They considered the Baltimore Convention Center, the Baltimore Arena, and approached the Timonium Fair grounds. 

They were not having much success so they approached City Hall for assistance in locating a venue – I guess they couldn’t help. They did try to persuade them to make it a half indoor and half outdoor event in Canton Park and the DuBurns Arena.  However, one can not control the gate in such a setting.

Turns out the festival found a new location at the Timonium Fairgrounds.  However, they had to change their traditional September dates to November 10 – November 12.

What is Martin O’Malley’s reaction?  Start another competing festival.

His friend, Dominick Murray, established Ceol Maryland, Inc. for the express purpose of organizing a competing festival.  Dominick is a great guy and a great friend of the Irish Community.  However, he is also very loyal to Martin and worked (he may still work there) in the Mayor’s office.

This reminds me of when I spoke to Anne Arundel County about moving the Parade to Glen Burnie.  Martin’s response was “I’ll start my own parade”.  That would have cost him at least $40K which is a lot more than what it would have cost to give us what we were asking for in return for our contributions to the city.

Guess who is a major sponsor of Martin O’Malley’s irish Festival?  Baltimore City.  Great use of City resources.  I think it would have been a lot less expensive if he assisted the real Irish Festival.  But hey, I am not surprised one bit.  Typical of Martin O’Malley?  Absolutely.

What a great way to keep your friends close.  Compete with them.  Would he do this if the Carribean Festival went to Timonium?  How about the Greek Festival?

No he wouldn’t.  He would only do this with the Irish Festival because of the embarassment factor.  This is typical Martin O’Malley. Simply petty.

It will be interesting to see if Martin opens up the real Irish Festival with O’Malley’s March as he typically has in the past.

To top it off O’Malley knows that the two major Irish events in the region (The original Festival and the Parade) constantly go back to the same people for money.  Now we have a third event competing with the real Irish for the same money.  I suspect it will hurt the Festival more given the similiarity in event type and proximity in date.  Given the timing (so close to the election) what does O’Malley care about a few Irish votes as long as his ego is smoothed over.

For a related post see Me and Martin O’Malley.


13 Responses to “Irish Festival Abandons Baltimore”

  1. Jim Adams said

    David, I enjoy your coverage of all things Irish, you do a great job. I wife was Irish, and how I miss those beautiful green Irish eyes.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. mary catherine said

    Where will the BC festival be held? I hate the Timonium Fair grounds. It is way too far for us to go… and its sad to see it move out of the City and away from its true Irish roots. (Nothing historically Irish about Timonium). Its too bad they couldn’t find a location in the city… It is branded in our minds as the City’s Irish festival.. not as an independent Irish festival to be held anywhere. (whether accurate or not… branding is a funny thing, that way).

  3. hocomd said


    I take this personally.

    I am not advertising Martin O’Malley’s Irish Festival.

    Many people have invested too much of their personal time making the Irish Community’s events what they are today. It isn’t easy to organize and operate an event like that for 32 years. Hank Arnold (may he rest in peace) and many others before him (may they rest in peace) are rolling over in their graves.

    The emails flying around about this are very angry. I am sure Martin is getting support in some quarters.

    Branding is funny, but it was never a City Irish Festival. It was always and will remain an intergral part of the Irish Community. I think it is cynical and opportunistic of Martin to take this tack. Of course how can we have an Irish Mayor without an Irish Festival (especially in an election year)?

    Other than pick up his guitar he didn’t do much else for either event. It is an affront to the community who have sweated blood and tears, and received no personal reward in return in order to keep this event alive for 32 years. Did you know that all the money ever raised (net of course) for the Irish Festival has gone to charity. Will the other festival do the same?

    Relative to the Irish demographics in Towson/Timonium. Since the 1960’s it has the largest concentration of Irish in Maryland. I think they would disagree with your assessment. In addition the area has the largest and most active Hibernian organizations in the State.

    The next highest concentration of Irish in central Maryland are Glen Burnie, Dundulk, Annapolis, Catonsville, and Pikesville. The Festival and Parade draw more attendees from the Towson/Timonium area than any other in central Maryland.

    How do I know this? I paid for a marketing study when I was Parade Chairman. I think they will do fine at the fairgrounds. I would have loved to have had a Guinness with you while watching the kids jig.


  4. mary catherine said

    Hey.. I meant no harm… My perspective is just as a random user with no inside information or historical perspective on the event… I connected it to the Baltimore City Irish- of which I am a proud descendent… and to Baltimore City… Not because of O’Malley- since way before O’Malley. (I never connected it to him)

    I know Towson is Irish. I didn’t know Timonium was- my new interesting fact of the day.

    Don’t forget all those Irish in Long Green Valley!


  5. No offense taken. I swear. I will still stand you a pint.

  6. V. mCcurdy said

    We have worked the Irish Festival for several years and the last time we had to show ID before the soldiers would let us in and that was for visitors also. My understanding was the state was to sell the Armory and it wouldn’t be available. The parking also was terrible.But then the city has driven several festivals out. The Polish Festival was held at Timonium this year.

  7. V. mCcurdy said

    Actually it was the German Festival that we went to.

  8. hocomd said

    Mr. Deville,

    Given the nature of the post and the feelings of the author I think it is “cheesy” that you would even post that comment on this blog.

    Regarding your posting that on my blog I quote Samuel Beckett (one of your current favorite authors), “It means what it says.”, or rather your intent was clear.

    However, I prefer Oscar Wilde (I paraphrase) “Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often [un]convincing”

    I will make a deal with you. I will stay away from the faux festival and refrain from posting on your blog if you refrain from posting on my blog.

    You must not have taken the liberty to read this blog except in regard to the Irish Festival.  If you had you would understand that competing points of view and community building are most welcome. 

    Competing Irish Festivals are the opposite of community building.  What is more they are divisive as well as insulting to the memory of the founders of the Irish Festival who worked diligently to honor the contributions of their ancestors and to return something back to their descendents.


    David W. Keelan

  9. […] This is the fourth time I was contacted by a reporter for something I wrote, “Irish Festival Abandons Baltimore” (the second most popular post for August) and the third time they actually wrote something as a result.  The Baltimore Sun wrote an article about the “Dualing Irish Festivals” […]

  10. Carmon said

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    Great site, continue the good work!

  11. Tristan said

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