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FESTIVALS & EVENTS : Irish Luck Into Celebration of Heritage

March 04, 1993|MARESA ARCHER | Maresa Archer is a free-lance writer who occasionally contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

St. Patrick's Day revelers looking for green-tinted brew won't find it at the fourth annual Orange County Irish Faire, being held Saturday and Sunday on the grounds of the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts.

Fair founder Leonore Coyne, whose father was born in Ireland, said she just couldn't bring herself to allow green beer at an event that is held to celebrate Irish culture.

"We don't want to stress St. Patrick's Day or Irishness with overindulgence in drinking," Coyne said. "It's an opportunity for people of Irish descent, or anyone who wants to be Irish for a day, to get together and have fun."

Coyne decided to establish an Irish fair in Orange County after realizing how much she missed going to the Irish dances and gatherings her father took her to in Los Angeles as a child. March seemed like the natural time to have such a celebration as it marks the honoring of St. Patrick, the 5th-Century clergyman credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.

In Ireland however, St. Patrick's Day is traditionally a holy day, not a day for wearin' o' the green. It is the Irish-American community that has transformed the event into a declaration of being Irish.

"It's really the people of Irish descent who seem to want to celebrate their Irish heritage, though there are a lot of (Irish immigrants) in Orange County who attend the fair," Coyne said.

The two-day event features harpists, traditional step-dancing and storytelling. There are also Irish-American hybrid activities, such as a "cutest leprechaun" contest.

"The Irish look at you funny when you start talking about leprechauns," Coyne said chuckling. "But the children look so cute all dressed up and have such fun doing it that we have to keep it going."

The Mulligans, a duo from Ireland who now live in Southern California, will perform traditional Irish music as well as popular standards. Orange County-based band the Fenians will trade off musical duties with the Mulligans to ensure there is a constant stream of tunes throughout the two-day event.

Ireland is not a country much known for its gourmet cuisine so, in addition to booths selling bangers and mash (sausages and potatoes) and soda bread, there will be Greek, Mexican and other ethnic foods.

All proceeds from the fair will go to benefit Straight Ahead, a residential program for drug abusers and youthful offenders in Dana Point.

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