THINGS didn’t look promising for the Koroit Irish Festival on Saturday morning.
“When we were closing the road about 6.30 it bucketed down,” festival committee president Chris Evans said.
“We got 9mm in about 40 minutes and we were starting to wonder if it was worth setting up.”
But Irish luck prevailed and by the time the procession started at midday, led by Premier Denis Napthine and festival star Imogen Brough, the skies were clearing.
“We were very lucky and it turned out to be a fantastic festival,” Mr Evans said.
At the core of the entertainment was a top line-up of Australian-Irish entertainers, including new and returning acts. Among them Damien Leith, a Sydney-based Irish import who has won Australian Idol and been nominated for 10 Arias.
“Damien was terrific — he played for over an hour and the crowd loved him.”
He reportedly drew the biggest crowd ever seen in the Koroit theatre.
Also among the top acts was Geelong singer-songwriter Imogen Brough, an ascending star of the Irish music scene.
Among the newcomers was Ballarat band Old Melbourne Road, a six-piece family band that plays a mixture of Australian and Irish folk.
“They were outstanding — they played at the Koroit bowls club this morning (Sunday) and they packed the house,” Mr Evans said.
There was also plenty of high standard local involvement, including the trio Tommy, Tuddy and Mick, who have been festival regulars.
Mr Evans said the festival had cemented its place as a national cultural event, able to attract the best artists.
“This was the 18th festival. It has been built on traditional Irish entertainment which is the core of its success — we maintain that and try to add something new every year.”
New for this year was the Great Australian Irish Quiz Show on Friday night, won by a team comprising Dr Napthine, singer Maria Forde and The Standard editor Steve Kelly, whose knowledge of punk rock helped them to victory.
Also new was a Sunday morning Gaelic football match between Gaelic Football Association ladies premiers, Sinn Fein Ladies, and a team of local male footballers.
“The men won narrowly,” Mr Evans said.