Dot’s Irish Heritage Festival offers dose of culture, family connections

The Green-O’Leary School of Irish Dancing aloft during 2014’s Dorchester Irish Heritage Festival.The Green-O’Leary School of Irish Dancing aloft during 2014’s Dorchester Irish Heritage Festival.

Sunday, Oct. 11, 11 to 6, at Florian Hall, McKeon Post

The Irish-American duo Celtic Font will be among the performers at this year’s Dorchester Irish Heritage Festival, to be held on Oct. 11 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the crossroads of Florian Hall (55 Hallet Street) and the John McKeon Post AmVets 146 (4 Hilltop Street).

The festival, taking place for the fifth time, has become a Columbus Day Weekend highlight for Irish/Celtic music and dance devotees in Greater Boston and beyond, drawing crowds of upwards of 9,000. Two outdoor stages, as well as the venues in Florian Hall and the McKeon Post, provide for continuous entertainment throughout the day, showcasing many Greater Boston-area acts.

Among the local bands on the program for this year are Devri, Silver Spears, Fenian Sons, Erin’s Melody, the Tom Lanigan Band, Gobshites, Erin’s Guild, Noggin, Fuaim na nGael, plus the Boston Police Gaelic Pipes and musicians with Boston’s Hanafin-Cooley-Reynolds branch of Comhaltas Ceóltoirí Éireann.

Other performers scheduled to appear include Pauline Wells, Michael O’Leary, John Dalton, Páidí Walsh & Friends, Liam Hart & Frankie McDonagh, Colleen White & Sean Smith, and the trio of Maidhc Newell, Joe Walsh and Máirín Uí Chéide.

Irish dance also will be part of the festivities, with the Green-O Leary School of Dancing, Smith-Houlihan Dance Academy, Kenny Academy of Irish Dance, Keane-O’ Brien Academy of Irish Dance, Brady Academy of Irish Dance and O’ Shea-Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance, as well as performances of seán-nos (old-style) dance. As always, there is sure to be plenty of spontaneous, participatory dancing among festival-goers.

In addition to the music and dance, the festival offers family entertainment, and cultural activities, as well as food and vendor booths selling clothing, souvenirs, novelties, jewelry and various other items.

Featured act Celtic Font is singer Mai Hernon and guitarist/singer Mick McEvilley. A native of Gurteen in Co. Sligo, Hernon has a solid background in performing and teaching traditional music of Ireland. Among her notable collaborators over the years have been Cathy Jordan and other members of the group Dervish, Seamie O’Dowd, Dolores Keane, Len Graham and Rosie Stewart. Hernon, who also performs with the all-female four-part harmony band Beeswing, has three albums to her credit.

McEvilley, who is from Cincinnati, took up acoustic guitar and tenor banjo as a child, and began singing American folk music while in college. Hearing the Irish Tenors prompted him to explore Irish music, and on a subsequent visit to Ireland he happened to hear Hernon on the radio – and was intrigued enough to find out more about her. They eventually made contact, formed a friendship over the years, and after Hernon immigrated to the US, got married. The duo’s repertoire reflects their merged backgrounds, mixing Irish traditional music and Irish/American folk.

Festival organizers Sean Weir, Patrick McDonagh, and Mairin Keady expressed their gratitude to the local businesses and other patrons who have provided support for the event since it debuted.

Added Keady. “We are so blessed with the best of talented bands, musicians, and dancers in this area. This day is designed to showcase our neighborhood that is so rooted in culture, heritage, and family.  Over the years, this festival has evolved as another opportunity for families to gather and visit with old friends returning to their old stomping ground just before the winter sets in. 
“It promises to be a great day for our Irish cultural heritage.”

For information and updates on the Dorchester Irish Heritage Festival, see