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IT'S EASY BEING GREEN : Laguna's 2-Day Irish Faire Has the Benefit of Pipes, Clogs and Many Friends

March 05, 1992|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

Most people reach for their scrapbooks when they become nostalgic. When Leonore Coyne wants to relive happy childhood experiences, she reaches out to the community, drawing together thousands of strangers to share in the music, color and traditions of her family's roots.

Coyne, with the help of friends, family members and local volunteers, is staging the third annual Irish Faire, a two-day celebration of Irish music, dance, food and games at the Festival of Arts grounds in Laguna Beach. The event runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Proceeds will benefit Straight Ahead, a Dana Point residential recovery program for drug abusers.

Despite its brief history, Coyne says the idea for the Irish Faire has been decades in the making.

"My father came from County Galway, and when I was a child living in Los Angeles, I used to go with him every week to an Irish gathering of some sort. He took me everywhere. Irish fathers are partial to little girls," recalled Coyne fondly.

"When I moved out here to Orange County in the 1940s and my father passed away, I missed that. So we planned this as a way to bring families together, and to turn Orange County green, even if it's for a couple of days."

Coyne has invited entertainers from across Southern California to participate in the event. Among those scheduled to perform on the stage are the Finians, an Irish folk band led by Laguna Niguel's Terry Casey; an Irish step-dancing troupe directed by Liam Harney of San Clemente; San Clement's Beach Country Cloggers; Lakewood's the Mulligans, and Harry Farrar V, a pipe and drum ensemble from Woodland Hills. Impromptu performances by visiting storytellers and singers will be welcomed on a smaller stage near the entrance to the grounds, added Coyne.

Orange County members of the Society for Creative Anachronism will return for the third year to demonstrate arts and crafts, weaponry and domestic skills of Western Europe's medieval period. Although not strictly Irish in content, the demonstrations will feature members in costumes similar to those worn by the Irish during that time, according to society member Jim Linehan. And there's a unique hands-on opportunity planned for younger children.

"We usually give children 12 and under a chance to hit us with swords," said Linehan. (Don't sweat it, parents. The blunt-edged weapons are made of bamboo, said Linehan, and the adults are wearing period armor.)

If your children are of the gentler sort, the event also features "The Irish Hip Trip," an audience-participation children's show. The show, created for the event by Steve Mellow's Readers Theatre of Santa Ana, allows audience members to "make their own pot of gold" by "drawing their dreams" on a large sheet of paper. A variety of carnival games including darts, a basketball toss and a nail-pounding competition are also planned.

Visitors to the fair are encouraged to dress in Irish garb to participate in the daily Best Irish Costume and Cutest Leprechaun contests. Information booths will also be available to help guests trace their own Irish roots. Local taverns, church groups and caterers will sell a variety of traditional foods and drink, including Irish stew, fish and chips, bangers (sausages) and mash (mashed potatoes), and Irish beer.

Pulling off such an event as this without a reliable base of volunteer help would be virtually impossible, acknowledged Coyne.

"Everybody helps: my seven grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, childhood friends," she said. Residents of the Straight Ahead program, which houses and counsels recovering addicts ages 16 and up, have also assisted.

Coyne's association with Straight Ahead comes through her husband, John Bowlers, director of the 17-year-old nonprofit program. In addition to raising funds for the group, Coyne wants to send a hopeful message to young people involved in drugs.

"For myself, I can't understand the kind of life these kids have had (because) I had a very happy childhood," Coyne said. "But I figure if we have enough Irish Faires, and enough families getting together, then maybe Straight Ahead won't have to exist."

What: Third Annual Irish Faire.

When: Saturday and Sunday, March 7 and 8, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Festival of the Arts grounds, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach.

Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Laguna Canyon Road and drive south.

Wherewithal: $5 for adults; free for children under 12.

Where to call: (714) 493-9643.

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