An Ri Ra Montana Irish Festival
The most Irish of all Irish-American communities, Butte, Montana, celebrates its heritage this weekend. Event spokesperson Christine Tutty-Johnson tells us more.
What is your own ethnicity?
I am Irish American, 2nd generation Montanan/American.
When and why did you get involved with the Festival?
I have been involved right from the event’s inception. My brother was a founding festival member, and I was recruited to help.
What are your roles and responsibilities there?
Over the years, I have been a photographer and/or director of marketing and public relations.
What are the challenges involved?
There are a lot of things going on in and around rural Montana during the summer months. Competing with other festivals and summer events is always a challenge.
What are the rewards?
I always watch for the look on attendees’ faces – their reaction to the amazing activities, the caliber of musicians, educators, dancers, vendors, location, etc, says a lot about the energy of the event.
Why is it an important event for the community?
The Irish community founded and built made Butte, so it is important to remember our roots. Inviting visitors from around the world to experience our hospitality and what our amazing community has to offer will keep them coming back.
Who traditionally attends the Festival?
It is a great family event and there is something for everyone. Even if you aren’t Irish, you will find something here that speaks to your heart.
What can they expect this year?
This year is a special year, not only because of the caliber of entertainment and education, as well as the beauty of the location, but also because it is a free event and this year, we are commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916. Former Irish leader Eamon DeValera was in Butte, Montana for a period of time.
How has the event evolved through the years?
It started small, on a street in uptown Butte. Originally, there was a cover charge to attend, and it was a smaller event. Now it is located on a historical mine-yard – the stage is a copper mine gallows frame on the original mine-yard – and it is now a free event over the 3 days.
Will you remain involved with the event in the years ahead?
Butte and Irish culture is always a passion of mine, and I will always be involved in the festival in some way or another.
How else are you involved with the Celtic community there?
While I live in another part of the state, Butte will always be home, and I support the community, especially the Irish community and events whenever possible.
Is enough being done to preserve and promote Celtic culture generally?
I think the Irish have a great way of Handing Down the Heritage. If you are Irish, you know it and you grew up learning the history. This just needs to continue and we need to remember where we all came from, no matter where we are now!