The annual Irish Fest on the Hill at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Knoxville celebrated its 10th year of sharing Irish food, music and culture on Saturday. The annual festival featured a number of local Irish bands and a selection of homemade Irish cuisine that was unlikely to be rivaled.
According to Deborah Allen, a member of the ICCC’s Irish Fest committee who helps organize the Irish Fest on the Hill, the annual festival was conceived to celebrate the prominence of Irish culture in Knoxville’s history.
“The church has a rich history of Irish immigrants that originally came back in the 1830s and 1840s to Knoxville, and in 1855 there were enough Irish people living in Knoxville that they built this church,” Allen said. “We decided that it would be a nice way to recognize the Irish heritage, not only of Knoxville, but of the descendants from our church. We started it back 10 years ago, and each year it’s just gained more and more momentum.”
Allen said that the church was expecting close to 2,000 visitors for this year’s festival, but that an afternoon rain shower might have put a small damper on the festival’s turnout. Still, she said, the festival’s growth in recent years has been inspiring for the church.
“I think part of it parallels the growth of downtown,” she said. “When you look at where we were 10 years ago and where we are now, I think there are a lot of people looking to go to these outdoor events. They love music, they love the food, and it’s obviously been great for the church as well to invite people here and share this beautiful space.”
This year’s festival featured nearly a dozen different Irish dishes and a handful of local bands. Allen explained that a diligent group of church members started preparing the food on Friday night to help keep up with demand during the festival.
“We probably had a dozen women cooking, starting last night and again this morning,” she said. “Literally all the food is…