The Ancient Order of Hibernians and Virginia City Chamber of Commerce will host the 2012 Irish Weekend on June 8 – 10, a family oriented celebration of Irish culture and heritage in Montana.
The event kicks off on Friday with live Celtic music at the Bale of Hay Saloon. At 5 p.m. will be the Dillon Fiddlers, followed by the Brennan Family at 10 p.m. In between the performance will be the ceremonial painting of an Irish green stripe down the center of Wallace Street at 7 p.m., and at 8 p.m. will be a presentation at The Elling House from Ellen Baumler of the Montana Historical Society about Montana pioneer Mary Sheehan Ronan.
The fun will continue on Saturday starting at 9 a.m. with welcoming speeches and an Irish flag raising at the Madison County Courthouse. From there people are invited to participate in the annual community service project to clean up the historic Meagher Cabin on West Idaho Street with the Thomas Francis Meagher Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Meagher was a Civil War general who immigrated from Ireland and later became one of the first territorial governors of Montana.
From noon to 1:15 p.m. there will be a baked potato lunch offered at the Bale of Hay Saloon, and at 1:30 p.m. the annual AOH parade will follow the previously painted green stripe down Wallace Street. Also on Saturday afternoon will be a walking tour of the Peter and Mary Ronan historical locations starting at 3:30 p.m. and a performance / presentation from author Paul Wylie in the courtroom of the Madison County Courthouse at 4:45 p.m. Evening entertainment can be found at the Bale of Hay with Irish band Dublin Gulch of Butte, and the weekend will conclude on Sunday morning with a Catholic Mass at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Laurin.
Joe Calnan is the financial secretary of the Thomas Francis Meagher Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and chairman for this event in Virginia City. He says it’s important to recognize the role of the Irish throughout Montana history, and that there is much, much more than the annual free-for-all on St. Patrick’s Day in Butte.
“Our goal is to try to raise the level of consciousness in the state as a whole, but in Madison County especially, about how important the Irish were,” Calnan said. “We think that the Irish have made a way bigger contribution to the state of Montana than people really understand or realize.”