My Irish Eyes Were Smiling…

Pam Pollock
October 2023

This Irish lass had the opportunity to celebrate the Magic of Ireland at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, which was held on September 8th-10th at the national historic landmark, Carrie Blast Furnaces in Swissvale, Pennsylvania.  Because of work, dang it, why does work always have to interfere, I meandered down to the opening night of the show on Friday.

I’ve never been to an Irish Festival before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  What I found was a camaraderie of people, some Irish, some not.  There was lots of blarney being told and laughter bounced off the furnaces.  The beer and whiskey were flowing, and because I don’t drink alcohol, a scrumptious green slushie concoction allowed me to join in the merriment of toasts.

An Irish comedian was yukking it up as men and women tried their hand at throwing axes nearby.  Vendors were hawking their wares under a big top tent at the Irish Marketplace.  Children, some wearing kilts and Irish dresses, were creating crafts at Leprechaun’s Landing.  The Movin’ Out Clan wandered over to the Genealogy Pavilion where Dan discovered my maiden name Roddy in a genealogy book. (Officially listed as Ruddy, with Roddy listed underneath and I discovered that my ancestors were from the county of Donegal.

The food – oh, the glorious food!  We feasted on Shepherd’s Pie, Bangers and Mash, Irish Bread Bowl and Bread Pudding that was beyond divine. 

And ahhhh… the men in kilts… Sigh, I do indeed love me a man in a kilt.

Dancers and musicians performed at various stages, bringing people to their feet!  Nostalgic songs brought tears to my eyes and then minutes later, a rousing performance on bagpipes from Ally the Piper had me dancing on the wet grass (in true Ireland fashion, a brief but very powerful rainstorm swept through the fair, leaving a beautiful rainbow beaming down from the skies afterwards.)

The highlight of my evening at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival was the performance by Ally Crowley-Duncan, aka All the Piper.  She sings and plays multiple instruments, but she’s best known for playing the Great Highland Bagpipe.  Ally is a very friendly performer, who truly loves what she does, and it shows.  She lights up the stage and is very interactive with the crowd. Ally performs traditional music, as well as modern music.  She even pipes along to Metallica’s music!  I realize that I am fan girling (or in my case, Gaga girling) right now – but she is just *that* awesome!  You can learn more about Ally, including upcoming performances and tours,  at

Next year’s Pittsburgh Irish Festival is slated for September 6-8, 2024.  I plan on attending on Saturday to be able to glean and soak up a full day of Irish culture and fun.  More information on the Pittsburgh Irish Festival can be obtained at

Donegal, Ireland is 3,331 miles away, but the Pittsburgh Irish Festival truly brought the “Magic of Ireland”  to this little old Grandma.