The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Pittsburgh Irish Festival celebrates Celtic heritage at Carrie Blast Furnace

Pittsburgh+Irish+Festival+takes+place+under+the+backdrop+of+the+dramatic+Carrie+Blast+Furnace+in+the+Swissvale+neighborhood+during+the+weekend+of+September+8th%2C+2023.
Trinity Foster | Senior Staff Writer
Pittsburgh Irish Festival takes place under the backdrop of the dramatic Carrie Blast Furnace in the Swissvale neighborhood during the weekend of September 8th, 2023.

Vendors, performers and attendees covered the fields at Carrie Blast Furnace last weekend for the 32nd annual Irish Festival. The event was “created to contribute to the rich cultural awareness of Irish history and tradition that exists in Pittsburgh,” a goal it has achieved and exceeded, according to Philadelphia resident and event volunteer Shannon Lambert-Ryan. 

“I think it exposes more people to the variety of different parts of the Celtic cultures — music, dance, it’s really lovely. They have storytelling here, they have this baking demonstration where it introduces you to different foods from the Celtic Isles. They’ve got different kinds of clothing,” Lambert-Ryan said. “It really gives a variety and an inside look into some of the different aspects and fashions of Irish, Scottish and Celtic culture that people may not have been exposed to.”

The Irish Festival has a reputation as one of the country’s most comprehensive displays of Irish culture, and was the first event of its kind in Pittsburgh when it began in 1991. Its creators,  Maura and Nan Krushinski, were inspired by the Irish dance and music passed down to them by their Irish mother and half-Irish father, who hosted ceili, a traditional Irish folk music, dancing and storytelling event in their garage. When existing Pittsburgh festivals began excluding Irish culture around 1990, the Krushinski sisters decided to replicate ceilis on a much larger scale — the Pittsburgh Irish Festival.

This was Lambert-Ryan’s second year participating in the festival as a member of the Celtic roots band RUNA, which she started with her husband, a native of Dublin, Ireland, in 2008. She said her connections to Irish culture stems from music and dance.

“The connections are kind of all over the place and weaving back and forth. I grew up as a step dancer in Philadelphia and competed for several years,” Lambert-Ryans said. “I’ve been singing Irish music and listening to Irish music throughout my lifetime. I eventually wound up joining a world music band and through that band I met my husband.”

Lambert-Ryan also founded Baking with Babies, a baking account she began with her son, Liam, and harnessed her skills in a shortbread demonstration with Five Farms’ Celtic kitchen. The festival included much more than baked goods, with vendors selling Irish stew, baked potatoes, salmon, bread pudding, tea, coffee and more. 

Although it’s just her second year at the event, Lambert-Ryan said she loves contributing.

“We’ve been really excited to be a part of this event, especially with the people running the event, they’ve become like family to us,” Lambert-Ryan said.

The festival included a genealogy tent where attendees can trace their family history with the help of volunteers. One such volunteer is John Franey, resident of Mount Lebanon and co-chair of Mount Lebanon Genealogy Society. He encouraged people to look into their family history as soon as possible.

“People get involved in following their ancestry typically very late in life, not when they’re young and they really should be doing it. Natural things happen, people pass away and all that history of your family is lost. The only way to keep it going is through genealogy,” Farney said.

Though many attendees have ties to Irish culture, some, like Kristina Pacifico, a resident of Oakland, do not. But, this didn’t stop her from enjoying the event, she said.

“I think, at least for me personally, [the festival] is definitely a cultural experience. I’m familiar with the Pittsburgh Irish Parade that we have every St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s interesting seeing more cultural significance through the festival. It’s nice seeing the community –– sometimes you forget how large the Irish community is here in Pittsburgh,” Pacifico said.

The Irish community in Pittsburgh is the largest in the country by proportion at 43,000 people, or 14.2% of the city’s population, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The festival gained so much popularity that its founders created the Irish Education Outreach Program, partnering with local Irish organizations to continue spreading Celtic culture.

Through the Irish Festival, Pittsburgh’s Irish population is able to gather as a community, and the joy is palpable, according to South Hills resident Caroline Walker.

“So far, the Irish coffees have been really great, the shopping has been great, and the camaraderie of the people here. It’s all very positive energy,” Walker said.

About the Contributor
Trinity Foster, Senior Staff Writer