Monday, March 23, 2015

Irish Spring Festival in Ireland, W.Va.

Irish Spring FestivalWest Virginia has some really unique, wonderful places -- like the small swiss village Helvetia.

But have you heard of Ireland, W.Va.?

The small town is located at the southern end of Lewis County and was settled by Irish immigrant Andrew Wilson in the early 1800s. In his later years, Wilson became known as "Old Ireland." A few years after Wilson died and the first post office was being located in the town, community members named the area "Ireland" in honor of Wilson.

Irish Spring Festival
This town has embraced its Irish roots through various ways --  an organization called "Shamrock Extension Homemakers Club," many Irish names and the annual Irish Spring Festival. The festival's birth was due to community members rediscovering the history of the town combined with the vernal equinox plus the beginning of spring.

Irish Spring FestivalI first heard of Ireland through Irish Road Bowling, a sport similar to golf where participants throw a 28 oz. cannonball from one point on the road to two miles further down on the road in the fewest number of attempts. Considering our roads in West Virginia tend to be winding, the ball only goes so far before bouncing off to the side or down a hill.

Irish Spring FestivalI've seen a few stories on Irish Road Bowling (and here), but I hadn't ever seen it in person. And while they do travel a bit around the state for various tournaments, where better to see them than in their own hometown of Ireland? Coinciding with the Irish Spring Festival? I can't think of a better place to spend St. Patrick's Day in West Virginia. One more check off my WV bucket list with Vicki.

Irish Spring FestivalAfter a bit of a lengthy drive, we made it to Ireland without any hiccups. It's pretty easy to find - drive down 79 and then 19 until you run into Ireland. We parked along the road and made it just in time for the beginning of the parade.

Irish Spring Festival
Irish royalty blessed us with their presence, and a bunch of other hometown floats tossed out candy, coins and necklaces. A person donning an mask and nametag saying "Old Ireland" handed me a pearl onion -- I have NO idea what this means and have researched the heck out of it. If anyone knows of some Irish tradition, please let me in on the secret.

Irish Spring Festival
A pearl onion? No clue.

Irish Spring FestivalAfter the parade, we headed toward the community center to see the vendors. There were some pretty cool items up for sale - like T-shirts and quilts.

Irish Spring FestivalOf course, we had to treat ourselves to some food, too. They had Blarney Dogs (hotdogs), Unicorn Beef (reuben), Rainbow Rolls (cinnamon rolls) and Rainbow Floats (sherbet shakes). Such a cute idea. We both had to get some unicorn beef because ... well, how could you NOT get unicorn beef?

The sandwich was only $3, plus there was a jar for donations. So plus a drink and chips and a donation, I spent like $5 for my meal.

Outside of the kitchen was a huge table full of all kinds of condiments. I slathered some cole slaw, onions and thousand island dressing on my sandwich. Confession: I'm not crazy about sauerkraut, so I was masking some of that taste.

But, overall, this was pretty tasty. And fun.

Afterward, it was up to the road to watch some road bowlers.

Irish Spring Festival
















So many people gathered and took turns throwing their respective cannonballs down the road. I mostly tried to avoid getting run over by the cars that occasionally passed through, keep warm in the rain and not get hurt by a wayward cannonball. I think it was a success.

Irish Spring Festival
Irish Spring Festival

Irish Spring Festival