Under damp and glowering skies typical of the Auld Sod, the 26th annual Fairfield County Irish Festival on Friday kicked off a weekend-long celebration of Gaelic culture.
Irish music, dance, crafts, soccer, food and drink were all part of the event sponsored by Feile Inc., a Fairfield-based nonprofit, on the Fairfield University campus.
"We have four tents full of music and activities," said Maura O'Donnell, co-chairwoman of the festival.
"This is our primary fundraiser of the year," she said. "We usually have somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people, depending on the weather, so pray for the sun."
Though the blustery weather Friday dampened turnout, those on hand were in a celebratory mood.
"It's a good time--good food, good people," said Tim Wheeler of Shelton, who comes each year.
"This is my first time here," said Geoff Cornwell of Fairfield. "It's pretty sweet.
Others had been attending for much longer, including the last five years when the festival has been staged on Fairfield U.'s campus.
"I'm 24 years old," said Aislinn Sonntag of Fairfield. I've been coming here 24 years -- my whole life."
"You eat some awesome food, drink some beer and list to some awesome music, and see friends and family you only see once a year," she said.
O'Donnell said around 450 volunteers help organize the three-day event, including a 30-person committee that begins planning 10 months in advance.
"It's about sharing Irish hospitality and culture with the Fairfield County community at large," said O'Donnell. "They're a very welcoming and open people."
The festival continues Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. For more information, visit: www.irishfestival.org.