Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day at Snapdragon

Put on your leprechaun green for the Island Irish Fest on St. Patrick’s Day,

Put on your leprechaun green for Snapdragon’s Island Irish Fest on St. Patrick’s Day, Sunday, March 17.

Kick up your heels in the céilí dance, sing along to Irish pub songs, and enjoy three traditional Irish bands throughout the evening — including a first-ever pairing of two remarkable artists, John Whelan and Mark Graham, who both live on Vashon.

“The island has a surprisingly large Irish music tribe, thanks to the existence of the Vashon Celtic Players group formed in the 1990s,” said Karen Dale, Irish fiddler and organizer of the fest.

Dale moved away from the island to Portland six years ago to help care for her aging mother — but also to play in Portland’s thriving Irish scene. She took fiddle lessons there from Kevin Burke, the lead fiddler with the Bothy Band, a group that led the Irish music revival of the 1970s.

Vashon’s hometown harmonica hero, Mark Graham, recorded with Burke as part of Burke’s group “Open House” in the 1990s.

In Portland, Dale met Whelan for the first time.

Whelan is a seven-time All-Ireland Champion on button box accordion. He has put out a dozen albums and CDs and twice has been named “Musician of the Year” by the Irish Music Association. He’ll lead his third Wild Atlantic Music Tour in the autumn of 2024.

“John came down to perform with fiddler Haley Richardson,” Dale said. “When I introduced myself and he learned I had lived on Vashon, he told me how much he wanted to move to the island. He and his wife Jan soon did — and I joined them on two Wild Atlantic Music Tours in 2022 and 2023.”

The Snapdragon festivities will open on March 17 at 3:30 p.m., with jigs and reels played by local Irish musicians. A beginner’s céilí dance, called by Doug Dolstad, will kick off at 4 p.m. with Doug teaching all the basic moves.

At 5:30 p.m., Whelan and Graham will take the stage. Local trio Triskelion (Dale, Mark Wells, and Lawson Cannon) will bring jigs, reels, and songs to the stage around 7 p.m. Long-standing island favorite, Geordie’s Byre, will close out the night with Celtic songs and tunes, starting around 8 p.m.

There will be a break at 8 p.m. for the best leprechaun “head to toe and points in between” costume.

“Not sure what the prize will be,” said Dale, “but I’m guessing there will be a pot of gold involved.”

The cover charge for the fest is $12 payable by cash or Venmo at the door. Snapdragon’s kitchen will have Irish-themed food on offer, as well as pints from the Home Sweet Home bar.