A glimpse at the MN Irish Fair and Curtain-Conway Award Winner Jim Brooks

I have spent many very happy hours at the Irish Fair of Minnesota. And I’ve spent a few rough days with three small daughters under a hot sun with not a lick of shade from 10am until 6pm. One year, after the rain someone stopped me (and my three daughters following me) to tell me that the youngest had been lapping up rain puddles off every chair as we passed. Subsequently it takes a heavy hitter to get to me return – but return I did.

This year, Jim Brooks won the annual Curtain-Conway Award, given for outstanding service to the Irish cultural community in Minnesota. I was pleased to go down to celebrate Jim. Jim is the Editor of the Minnesota Irish Gazette, which has been serving the Twin Cities community for 34 years.

Jim and his lovely wife, Mary Sue McFarland Brooks, have been making things happen in the community for decades. They have been connecting people in the community with each other and expanding the circle to include authors, musicians, dignitaries and business people from Ireland. They have orchestrated awards to those who deserve them. They have helped publicize good actions, people and opportunities. They are founders and active members of Irish Network Minnesota, an organization that develops and promotes events and programs that lift Irish and Irish American culture.

And on a personal note, Jim is a good friend and former neighbor. He is there with the ready camera on those cold Trick or Treat nights when I was too busy getting costumes ready to document the event. He was there with open doors (for everyone) and a beer in hand (for those over 21) on those nights when we just needed a break. Always ready with a connection to make or story to tell. Jim is a great choice for 2021!

But the award was just part of the event. The Irish Fair has dancing, music in Irish and English, lectures, food, loads to drink, shopping, food and Irish sport. It’s great to see attendees come as they want to be – be it men in kilts, women in shamrocks on top of shamrocks, Irish dancers in full regalia, grownups in full on Braveheart makeup. There are 8 stages for performances. The event is still held on the Harriet Island, directly across the Mississippi from downtown St Paul but the campus has been redesigned to accommodate smaller stages, promoting a greater number of smaller audiences (and distancing). There really is something for everyone! (But note – there is an entrance fee of $20 for anyone over 12 years old.)

The event goes until August 15. Performers have included some past Mostly MN guests (Terry Walsh of Belfast Cowboys and Leslie Rich of Sweet Colleens). It is a glorious way to spend a day.

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