Having just got back from the North Texas Irish Festival in Dallas, I have never been so glad of what is commonly referred to as ‘New-Orleans-Time'.
I mean, don't get me wrong, it can be quite annoying when you find yourself waiting in a bar until 9 PM for friends who swore they would be there at 7, but when you find yourself at the receiving end of an Irish Music Festival of the sheer size of the NTIF as I did this weekend, well, you learn to be appreciative of a city that has such a forgiving attitude to time, and deadlines.
The North Texas Irish Festival is held every year at 277 acre Fair Park in Dallas, Fair Park is a beautiful venue for any kind of festival, large, airy and with plenty of inside space just in case the weather turns bad. Fair Park was the site of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, and has the world's largest collect of Art Deco exhibit builidings, art and sculpture. This year was the 28th NTIF held at this amazing venue.
Over the last weekend (March 5-7, 2010) the NTIF witnessed the first official debut of the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann Irish Dancers of New Orleans, who performed on the aptly named Emerald Stage. The dancers specialize in 'set' dancing, a social form of dancing still popular in Ireland which is actually descended from French Quadrilles, but given that special Irish Twist.
The common Celtic Heritage connections between France, Canada, New Orleans, Ireland and Scotland were further highlighted by the number of French Canadian, Cajun, and Nova Scotian bands that performed at the NTIF this year.
The line-up included the Barra MacNeils from Cape Breton, Grand Dérangement from the Saint Mary's Bay area of Nova Scotia, whose name refers to the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755 - and we all know where they ended up - and the contemporary Acadian group Vishtèn, all the way from the Magdalen Islands, a tiny predominately French archipelago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence just off Canada's east coast.
"The reason for the number of Canadian bands at this year's NTIF was to show the connections between French, Canadian, Cajun and Irish music, particularly between the Eastern Canadian Seaboard, and Ireland," Jim Miller, from the NTIF told WWOZ.
"You can hear the influence that Irish Music has had on the music of Canada, and of course, then on the Cajun music that you get down in New Orleans."
Over the course of the 3-day festival, as well as music there was a number of music and dance workshops, a plethora of vendors, and a ceili and various plays and theatrical productions. It was quite the weekend.
Noel Reid, Chairman of Basin Street Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann and one of the dancers who performed at the NTIF this year, had this to say about the festival.
"The festival is huge," he said. "They always have great line-ups, and top Irish Bands there, so I look forward to every time I go, but this was our first time to perform on stage. I had been to Dallas many times, and we had danced before at the ceilis, but this time was especially great because we got to dance."
"We have dance lessons every week in New Orleans on Tuesday nights," he went on.
"Anyone who is interested is welcome to come - it's fun. You don't need to work out if you do Irish dancing!"