After 27 years at the Civic Center, the Savannah Irish Festival preps for February in new venue

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Live Irish music and grilled ribs at a resort-style pool on a Saturday in Savannah!? Yep, the Savannah Irish Festival held a good "old-fashioned coisir" at the Grand Lake Club at Southbridge on June 5.

Greeting me at the check-in table is Savannah Irish festival treasurer Thomas Kautz. Sporting a festive green hat, Thomas takes a seat to give me an idea of what today's party/fundraiser is all about. "For the past 27 years the Savannah Irish Festival was held during the middle of February, most recently at the Savannah Civic Center. We are looking for a new location to bring this Irish celebration of culture and heritage of music, dance and storytellers," said the former Roly Poly sandwich shop owner.

While Thomas tells me about mini-events like today's coisir spread out over the year to raise funds to host the iconic festival, we see legendary radio personality Don Scott arrive. The Miami native talks about his love of music: "I'm digging the new music but classic rock is always the best." He talks about how he continues to "support Buy Local Savannah, SD Gunner Fund and fabulous people like Tara O'Sullivan here at GLC."

Walking in the massive clubhouse with me is one of the nicest, most genuine dudes I have met in the past year. Meet Tim Carlson! Retired from American Airlines and American Express, the Tucson, Arizona, native sends me selfie videos of him speed walking, almost working out, and generally making me laugh at anything he does. Little did I know — he sends those videos to other people — not just me!

Equally nice is GLC's newest culinary queen, Alaina Radford. While self-proclaimed "soul food chef" Loretta Anderson is off in north Georgia white water rafting, horseback riding and ziplining, Alaina is helping the always gracious Sharon Green and Sandra Kent hold down the kitchen.

Admiring Sandra's signature French chef hat, I graciously accept Sharon's offer for some of her signature sweet tea before heading past the pool to the cabana. Before I make it inside, Christian Eaddy invites me back out to the fifth annual Los Eaddy's Golf Tournament to benefit P.A.C.K. on Nov. 5.

After a perfect pic of Christian and his son JonLuke, I head into the cabana and find festival President Tara Reese chatting with Southern Eagle Distributing sales rep Matthew Wilking. "Contributing to today's festivities by my mere presence," the Buffalo, New York, native said, which makes Tara and I giggle at everything he says while we sip on pina coladas.

Next up is an Irishman that I see everywhere! Walt Harper is a member of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, Irish Heritage Society, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Fenians Society and the Police Emerald Society. I ask the County Antrim descendant why he is involved in so many organizations?

“I feel more connected to my ancestors and the camaraderie I have with fellow Irishmen and -women is why I am a member of so many orders and societies,” said the AOH state board treasurer.

After posing Walt with his girlfriend Terrie Osbourne, I chat with charismatic Savannah State University Business Placement Coordinator Chris Hagan who is sipping some spirits with Jim Craven and Dan McVicker. "During COVID, we got together and formed a band, Marsh Tackies. Jim, an engineer by day, is the drummer, Dan is an accountant and the bass player, and we play '70s and '80s music. We got pretty good at it!" said the lead singer and acoustic guitar player.

Out by the pool I get a pic of Chris' equally awesome wife Jackie with Seldom Sober's Colleen Scarry Settle and Michael Corbett and talk about our hatred of hot weather, her Savannah school experience at Blessed Sacrament, St. Vincent's, and life at the University of Georgia.

By now a few rain sprinkles are cooling us off and I have a chance to pause GLC General Manager Tara O’Sullivan to get an update on her summer plans. “We are hosting Tormenta FC Academy, a kids soccer camp this week, a ceremony installation for the Lions Club and planning fundraisers for the Gaelic Athletic Association.”

Proud to support her heritage, Tara tells me that she has opened her doors to anything Irish-event related for her close friend Tara Reese.

Walking me out, Tara Reese tells me, “Little mini events like today’s coisir, next week's Savannah Bananas game, September HalfWay to St. Patrick's Day, and a Celtic Christmas event raise funds to secure a location, entertainment and event costs for next year's Feb. 5 Savannah Irish Festival. We want to continue to bring Ireland to Savannah.”

Bring it. I can’t wait!

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This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: After 27 years at the Civic Center, the Savannah Irish Festival preps for February in new venue