Traditions of Erin Feis draw thousands to the riverfront

By Alyssa Donovan

August 25, 2013 Updated Aug 25, 2013 at 10:49 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill.-- The annual Erin Feis celebration wrapped up on Sunday after a weekend of Irish tradition.

Irish Dancing is one of the most popular traditions at the festival.

9-year old Ephram Willis is new to Irish dancing but he says he plans to do it for a very long time.

Willis said, "Pretty much until I graduate cause it's great fun like I said and I'm just going to do it until I know everything. Learning new steps is great fun too because you have no idea what's going to happen next."

Irish dancing is a staple of Erin Feis, in fact it's really where the festival started.

Dance Stage manager Theresa Hoadley said, "Erin Feis means Irish dance competition, feis is a competition so that's how it started out."

The traditional Irish festival has a lot to offer besides the dancing, traditional food, beer, music and Scottish games.

But the dancers always draw the largest crowd.

Irish dancer Jillian Rebmann from Peoria said, "This is one of our two biggest events of the year, we do St. Patrick's Day obviously and than we do the Erin Feis."

Hoadley says dancing is just another way to bring Irish families together.

Hoadley said, "Everybody who dances in a school usually has a sibling or a cousin so it really promotes family and promotes the Irish culture."

Co-Chair of Erin Feis John Martin says to keep with tradition, the final day of the festival ends with what's called "The Scattering."

Martin said, "We all meet in the big tent, sing a couple songs and go. We've got to get back to the real world."

And just in time, Martin says they almost ran out of beer.

The festival attracted more than 12,000 people to the riverfront and though it will return to the area next year, Martin says they are looking for more space.

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