The 23rd annual Libby Irish Fair on March 10 brought people in from near and far with music, food and vendors.
David Weyers from Plains said that he was visiting the Lodge of Love in Libby when he saw a trip happening to the event, and decided to come along.
Sporting a green top hat, Weyers said he arrived with a cowboy hat, but was taken by the spirit of the event.
Weyers stopped to talk with Bob Kehn of Big Horn Antiques, who said it was his first year as a vendor. Though his shop in Libby won’t open until April, Kehn said he saw an ad for the event and decided to participate.
As well as business was going, he was glad he did, and expects he’ll come back next year, Kehn said.
About a third of the vendors usually sign up for the next fair by the end of the current fair, said organizer RaeAnne Canavan. From November on, her job is getting all the rest signed up, which can be a bit like a full time job.
After almost two decades of working the fair, it’s still worth it to Canavan, she said. “I am almost 100 percent Irish, and I think that Irish heritage is good.”
While there are no rules restricting types of vendors, Canavan said that they would avoid anything that came across as “negative,” but they’ve never had to turn anyone away.
Cheryl Wegner and her husband James said they were also first-time vendors, though they travel to other similar events and fairs with their tie-blankets and pumpkin rolls.
“It’s been good, and I’m really enjoying the music,” Wegner said.
The Irish Fair was the first fair like the Wegners have been to with music, she said. She felt it helped add to the atmosphere and even helped sales.
“One of the things that makes our fair a little bit more of a draw is the music,” Canavan said. “People can just actually come here and sit all day long, listen to the music, have lunch.”
Bob Gray of Bob Gray’s Backwoods Crafts left his table a number of times to break into dance as the Boulder Creek Bluegrass Band was playing.
“When they get started, I just can’t stay still,” he said.
Jerry Clark said he has been coming to the Irish Fair close to 20 years to sell jams from Peggy’s Pantry with his wife. While this year’s event seemed a little slower, business was still good, he said.
Canavan said that they did have three vendors from the Sandpoint area cancel due to weather concerns, and despite the sunny day, felt maybe weather predictions had kept some people away who travel from further away.
Looking over the homemade jams, Joe Wade said he never passes by Clark’s table when he comes to the fair.
Half Irish, Wade decks himself out for the fair every year, he said, with his bowler hat, green plaid shirt and a green flower in his lapel.
Dee Teske came to the Irish Fair to promote a Scottish event, the Kootenai Highland Gathering Celtic Games, which will take place July 20-22.
Teske said that she enjoys the music and the variety of the Irish Fair. But she also just enjoys the people.
“I like the fact that it brings the community together,” she said.
After six years of working the Irish Fair for the Kootenai Highlanders, Teske said she always meets new people, but also enjoys getting to see all the familiar faces from the community she might not run into otherwise.
Kate Huntsberger is the organizer in charge of the kitchen side of the event, where attendees could try the Butte pasties Huntsberger and other volunteers had made by hand in the days before the event.
“It’s time consuming. It’s a lot of work,” Huntsberger said. But since admission to the event is free, selling food is a big part of how the event supports itself.
And the work doesn’t stop after this year’s fair, she said.
“We’ll start talking tonight about what to do for next year,” she said.
After around two decades, Huntsberger said that keeping the tradition going is important to her and her Irish heritage.
“It’s fun. I see people when they come, and it’s a fun day,” she said.
But she is also concerned about whether the tradition is being passed down. “We don’t see very many young people now,” she said.