The St. Patrick Society of Peoria was founded in January 1980 in downtown Peoria by Jack Cassidy, Ed Dwyer, Bob Mahoney, Bill O’Connell, and Richard Parsons who are referred to as the “Founders.” To accomplish its stated purpose, “to perpetuate the heritage and history of the Irish people and to promote their ideal, traditions, and culture,” the Society sponsors a minimum of two events each year, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the Peoria Irish Fest, originally named Erin Feis, at the end of August.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is always held on March 17th, rain, shine, or snow. Each year, two (2) members of the community are chosen to be honored, as Irish Mother of the Year and Grand Marshal. First, second and third place awards are presented to those participants who choose to participate in the competition in each of these Parade Categories: Business Entries, Family Entries, and Organization Entries. The Parade Route is designated by the City of Peoria Police Department and the City Works Department. This event is family friendly and is a great place for people of all ages, whether you come alone or part of a large family (Irish Clans), to meet and celebrate this Irish holiday.
The St. Patrick Society of Peoria partners with the Peoria Park District to host the Peoria Irish Fest – Erin Feis on the Peoria Riverfront, during the last full weekend in August. Over the years, this Irish Festival has grown from a Sunday afternoon picnic to a 3-Day Irish Festival. Although the venue has changed and the scope of activities and entertainment has grown exponentially since that first picnic, this event still provides a time and place for friends and families to join together and share their interest in Irish traditions.
The first day of Peoria Irish Fest – Erin Feis is called “The Gathering,” the second is called “The Day,” and the third day is called “The Scattering.” During the three days of the event, attendees can enjoy a variety of musicians from around Peoria, the country, or the world, playing both traditional and more modern Irish music, Irish dancers from a variety of Irish Dance Schools, and learn more about Irish traditions by visiting the Cultural Village or Performing Arts designated areas.
An Ancient Athletic sporting competition is conducted featuring the Sheaf Toss, Caber Toss, Stone Put, Hammer Throw, Braemar Stone/Open Stone—heavy weight for distance and light weight for distance, during the Festival.
On Sunday, attendees can participate in a Catholic Mass or a Celtic Worship Service where canned goods are collected for local food pantries.
From time to time the St. Patrick Society of Peoria sponsors other events that “perpetuate the heritage and history of the Irish people and to promote their ideals, traditions, and culture.” You can find information regarding these events by clicking here.