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Irish eyes smile on Miramichi
Music, dance and visitors from the Emerald Isle launch this yearís Irish Festival

AIMEE BARRY
Moncton Times & Transcript Staff

MIRAMICHI - The Miramichi Irish Festival kicked off with a bang yesterday morning.

A bombardment of green was seen everywhere within the Lord Beaverbrook Arena and NBCC Miramichi, where many of the activities took place.

Festivalgoers dusted off their St. Patrickís Day finery for the opening ceremonies at the Lord Beaverbrook Arena, which featured several guest speakers including Master of Ceremonies Donald Donahue and Rev. Richard Steeves, who opened the festival with a group prayer.

Guests included Mayor Hugh McElvaney of Monaghan, Ireland who broke out into song during his speech to the crowd.McElvaney joked that he was replacing the ale he drank this weekend with sunlight to take home to Ireland.

"The sun is going to shine in Ireland," he said.

The crowd got a sneak preview of the concerts in store for them as Irish tenor John MacNally belted out a tune that sent a burst of energy into the crowd.

Robin Averill of Irish Mist also exercised his vocal cords performing a song written about the Miramichi.

The Nelson Doyle Dancers followed up MacNallyís performance with their rendition of Celtic dancing that had the crowd tapping their feet.

The opening ceremonies also featured the launch of the book Middle Island Before and After the Tragedy by Caroline Daley and Anne Springer. Books were practically flying off of the tables as people lined up to have their copies signed by the authors.

Daley and Springer presented the first official copy of the book to Irish Ambassador Martin Burke. Another copy was also previously presented to Mona Kingston, a source for the book.

Added this year to the collection of Irish crests were those of the Gallivan and Johnston families. Family members from both of these clans were present to unveil the new crests that will join the others collected over the festivalís 19-year run.

After the ribbon-cutting to open the festival, attendees flocked to NBCC Miramichi to sample Irish scones at Mollyís Tearoom.

Many of the festivalís 200 volunteers were topping up peopleís teacups while they enjoyed the ambiance of the day.

Several experts on Irish genealogy were also there to offer their services to the crowd. Carman Williston, a local Miramichi genealogist, and members from the New Brunswick Archives brought everything from census data to birth records to help people trace their Irish roots.

The festival made sure visitors could experience every aspect of Irish culture by hosting Irish dances, tin whistle and Irish film workshops.

To make it a family event, children had the chance to make crafts and take part in an interactive Irish humour and comedy workshop hosted by Hal An Tow, who are also performing at the festival.

While all of this was going on at NBCC, the Lord Beaverbrook Arena was filled with people listening to a variety of Irish style music throughout the day.

Concerts continue, day and night, throughout the Irish Festival weekend.