As a kid, I remember having heritage days in school. I always looked forward to tasting the foods and learning the history of my classmates' homelands. So, naturally, I’m pretty excited about this weekend, as it's like a grander version of heritage days, with the Irish Fair of Minnesota, Twin Cities Polish Festival, and IndiaFest all taking place throughout the Twin Cities. There will be no poster boards here, but a more authentic look into the cultures with games, music, food, educational opportunities, and performances.
Irish Fair of Minnesota: Aug. 10-12
Friday: 3-11 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m.- 7 p.m.
Harriet Island, St. Paul
You’ll think it’s St. Patrick’s Day with all of this Irish pride. The Irish Fair of Minnesota is the largest (free) celebration of Irish culture in the nation and rightfully so—it’s quite the affair. Internationally acclaimed, local and regional Irish musicians will perform throughout the weekend, including the fair’s headlining acts, The Young Dubliners and Gaelic Storm. Along with the music you’ll see jigs, reels, and hornpipes on the dance stage, plus the Atlantic Steps, who will make their U.S. debut at the fair. Attendees can watch and participate in a number of cultural games, including hurling, Gaelic football, and sheep herding. One of the more unique, but equally entertaining events is the Best Legs in a Kilt Contest, where males will strut their stuff, being judged in five different categories. In addition, there will be a number of opportunities throughout the weekend to learn more about the historical aspects of the culture, including what makes these activities so significant.
Photo Courtesy of Twin Cities Polish Festival
Twin Cities Polish Festival: Aug. 11 & 12
Saturday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Along the Mississippi River on Old Main Street, Minneapolis
Learn about “all things Polish,” including the huge part the culture has in Minnesota’s history. In addition to Polish folk dancing and accordion ensembles, the festival will host the Minnesota State Amateur Polka Dance Competition, with contestants being judged in categories such as originality, costumes, continuity, and execution. At the Stone Arch Cinema, there will be concerts showcasing young, local talents and professionals performing the works of Chopin and other Polish composers. Also at the cinema, award-winning Polish films will be screened through Aug. 16. If you’re dying to try some traditional Polish cuisine, check out the pastries baking contest, in which competitors will be judged on their babka, makowiec, and kolaczki. Another highlight of the event is the Polish Heroes exhibit, where the photographs and text of 21 Polish men and women, honored as Rrighteous Among the Nations, will be featured.
IndiaFest: Aug. 11
Saturday: noon-6 p.m.
St. Paul Capitol Grounds
This festival is the lesser known of the three, but still expected to draw quite the crowd, as it is the largest outdoor Indian festival in Minnesota. The India Association of Minnesota is responsible for the festival that not only offers insight into India’s heritage, but also celebrates its Independence Day. A parade representing regional Indian organizations, dressed in traditional attire, will take place, as well as unfurling of the Indian and American flags and singing of the national anthems. The music will be virtually non-stop, while attendees can watch and learn how to dance to Bollywood music. There will be a number of family-friendly activities, including a magic show, kite flying, and face painting. In addition, a number of local restaurants will be serving traditional cuisine, while Indian arts and crafts will also be for sale.