Photo: Vice Consul General Barry O’Brien at right with Ireland’s President Mary McAleese, and her husband Dr. Martin McAleese.Irish Network Colorado (IN-Colorado) is a business network that connects Irish expatriates, Irish-Americans and friends of Ireland. Its mission is to provide a forum for social, business and professional networking for their members and to strengthen economic, social and cultural ties between Irish and American businesses in Colorado and more broadly between the U.S. and Ireland.By harnessing the energy and synergies of its diverse membership, IN-Colorado hopes to achieve similar networking successes as achieved by other Irish Network efforts throughout the U.SOver the last several weeks, inaugural meetings have been held at two local Irish Pubs, Scruffy Murphy”s and the Celtic Tavern. Under the driven leadership of Tom Burke and Ciaran Dwyer (who were hand picked by the Irish Consul General Gerry Staunton), the network has been given significant direction while beginning to establish itself among local Irish and Irish-American business leaders. In fact, the local British Consul General, Kevin Lynch, (who was born in Ireland) has offered his congratulations and support in establishing such a potentially influential organization.San Francisco-based Vice Consul General Barry O’Brien will formally launch the Irish Network Colorado at a special event to take place at 6:30pm on July 8th at the Celtic Tavern Riverside Downs, 2620 W. Belleview Ave., Littleton, Colo. The Network will become part of the Irish Network USA, which was formally launched by An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, on March 14th 2010. The goal of these Networks is to further strengthen the already considerable economic, social and cultural ties between the two countries, as well among Irish-American businesses themselves.Entertainment at the launch party will be provided by Belfast-based McPeake, courtesy of the Colorado Irish Festival. McPeake will bring its unique contemporary take on traditional Irish Music. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for the McPeake School of Music, which has been serving the Belfast community for 33 years, developing multiple All-Ireland champions and professional musicians. To attend this event, please RSVP in advance at Irish Network Colorado. IN-Colorado would like to offer special thanks to its event sponsors: the Celtic Tavern Riverside Downs, The Celtic Connection, Coors, Jameson and the Colorado Irish Festival. The Colorado Irish Festival will be officially opened by Vice Consul Barry O’Brien on Friday evening, July 9th and continues through Sunday, July 11th at Clement Park, Littleton, Colo. Go to www.coloradoirishfestival.org for more details.
Photo: Natalie MacMaster The 2010 Colorado Irish Festival celebrates its “Sweet Sixteen” year with the right mix of sugar and spice. In its 16th year, the Colorado Irish Festival has grown from a humble gathering of Denver”s Irish non-profit groups and friends to the premier destination Irish festival in the Rocky Mountains. In part, this is due to the history of strong entertainment showcasing both established and rising International acts, along with picks from a talented pool of Colorado acts.This year the Fest welcomes one of the sweetest woman in Celtic music is the fiery fiddler virtuoso Natalie MacMaster from Cape Breton. New to the Fest, she is no stranger to Colorado and electrified audiences from Telluride to Red Rocks. Pogey, will debut their own brand of Nova Scotia spice with high octane and fully interactive stage shows that have been creating a buzz.Maureen and Karen Ennis and their band Ennis from Newfoundland will charm Colorado Irish Fest audiences for the first time with broad mix of songs, tunes, and humorous story telling. The girls have one gold album and two more on compilations.McPeake, from the legendary musical family and school from Belfast will continue the 100 year McPeake legacy of excellence with their second consecutive visit to the Fest. Also returning by popular demand are The Elders. Led by County Wicklow native Ian Byrne, they”ll bring their sweat drenched “arsekickin music from the heartland” to their appreciative fans. Last year Seven Nations made a “surprise” visit to the fest and playeda set that brought the house down. The multi-dimensional rockers will play all three daysthis year. Included among the homegrown talent are Colcannon, The Indulgers, Angus Mohr, Potcheen and others.There”s loads more music, sessions, and workshops – along with Irish dance, battling bagpipes, Irish Sports, Celtic artisans, food and drink. The Cultural Village will offer storytelling, music, history, and Irish genealogical for adults and kids.So come on down and celebrate the three day B-day at Clement Park in Littleton by the banks of Johnson Reservoir!16th Annual Colorado Irish Festival NATALIE MacMASTER ” ENNIS ” POGEY ” THE ELDERS ” McPEAKE SEVEN NATIONS ” COLCANNON ” THE INDULGERS ” ANGUS MOHR POTCHEEN ” GOB”s O”PHUN ” JUICE O” The BARLEY ” MONDRAGON SKEAN DUBH ” CANNED HAGGIS ” ORION”S BOW ” Irish Dance ” Pipe Bands Irish Sports ” Cultural Village ” Storytelling ” Celtic Marketplace ” Kids AreaCLEMENT PARK, 7306 W Bowles Ave, Littleton, ColoradoChildren under 12 Free All Weekend. FREE Parking & ShuttleFriday July 9th 5 PM ” 10 PM ($5 at door)Saturday July 10th 10 AM ” 10 PM ($12 at door) Sunday & 11th, 9 AM ” 10 PM ($12 at door)( Help Denver Rescue Mission and get in FREE on Sunday – arrive at the gate on or before noon with three items of non perishable goods for FREE entry)
On May 19, 2010, at Infinity Park, in the heart of “Rugbytown USA”, a proclamation was read decreeing June as Rugby Month in Colorado.Acting on behalf of Governor Bill Ritter, Lt. Governor Barbara O”Brien read the proclamation to Glendale Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Dunafon, USA Rugby Men”s National Team Head Coach, Eddie O”Sullivan and a room full of Rugby enthusiasts at the Guinness Try Club. “It is great to have Infinity Park here in Glendale and Colorado, we have a wonderful month of rugby coming up” Said the self-proclaimed “Rugby Mom”. “Rugby is a sport that”s gaining a lot of traction here in Colorado, Infinity Park is the nation”s only municipally-owned rugby stadium and it”s attracting a lot of positive attention”.Attention will continue in June as Infinity Park will again showcase to the rugby world The Churchill Cup, on the 5th, 9th, and 13th. This year the high profile XV-a-side rugby tournament feature teams from U.S., Canada, Russia, England Saxons, France, and Uruguay. It will be the second consecutive year that Infinity Park presents the prestigious games.Other action at Infinity Park in June includes some of the top men”s rugby players in the country competing for the USA Rugby Men”s Club Championships on June 5-6, and the Men”s Collegiate All-Star Championships on June 10 and 12. And of course there will be action from the home team, Glendale Raptors, as well.After Lt. Governor O”Brien spoke, Coach O”Sullivan took to the microphone and underscored what a remarkable achievement Infinity Park has attained in hosting the Churchill Cup for the second straight year and suggested that the crown jewel of rugby venues become the permanent home of the premier event.Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Dunafon also took a turn at the podium and thanked the rugby supporters, visionaries, and those behind the construction of Infinity Park, and extolled the community building that surrounds the sport of rugby that has turned Glendale, Colorado into “RugbyTown USA”. “Rugbytown USA” is now the official title and logo of Glendale. On May 14, “Rugby World” world host Dave Sitton introduced the term to the TV audience watching the first of 8 half-hour programs on the FOX Sports Net. “All of the shows were produced in Glendale” Dunafon said, “Which will be great marketing for Glendale and the heart of Denver.”Ask anyone in the know, and they will credit Dunafon as the driving force behind Affinity Park and “RugbyTwon USA”. “Well, their too kind” Dunafon said, “I”ll tell you that because nobody makes anything happen on their own.”It took an event that happened over a decade ago in Glendale that led Dunafon and friends to Affinity Park and the re-branding of Glendale“Debbie”s (Mathews) business was attacked by another new Carrie Nation movement”Dunafon said, referring to a temperance movement figure in pre-Prohibition America who promoted her viewpoint by vandalizing bars with a hatchet. “They decided they didn”t want Glendale being the home of Shotgun Willie”s, since everyone knew were Shotgun”s was but not Glendale. So I said to the Mayor at the time, “Well change that, brand the city some way positive”.Dunafon said that the idea of a local government trying to dictate how peoples live really got his Irish up. “We had a voter”s drive that tripled the voter role in two weeks and 31 days later they were out of office and we rescinded the ordinance, downsized the government payroll and clean up outdated ordinance with the goal of using commons sense and not controlling people”s lives… It”s a real Libertarian success story- the idea to let the people make their own decisions.” Rugby was relatively unknown to Dunafon growing up in Golden, Colorado. He attended University of Northern Colorado where he lettered in football for four years and was part of the All-Conference team. He signed contracts to play with the Denver Broncos in 1976 and 1977. After the injury riddled two years that put him in the unemployment line he grew a beard and pony tail and traded his house for a sail boat and ended up in British Virgin Islands where he worked as a musician and scuba instructor. It was there that he was introduced to rugby. Dunafon recalled the day, “I was standing on side of a boat and a guy walked up to me on the dock and said “mate you look fit do you play sports… would you fancy a game of footie?” After a bit of cross-cultural interpretation and explanation, Dunafon came to realize the local man was talking about rugby.Dunafon was further baffled when he was instructed to put on a blazer and report to the HMS Cardiff warship to have a pre-game banquet with their opposing team, the British Marines. “You”re going to have a beer and sing a song with your opponent”? he asked his new teammate. The concept of breaking bread instead of breaking heads with your opponent was unfamiliar to Dunafon who was entrenched in the American football mindset. But he did go to the ship. “The Governor of Island was there, the captain of the ship ” it was incredible!” The next day they played rugby. “I was addicted to the sport the minute I played it,” adding with a chuckle, “But they just kicked my butt all over the place.”The camaraderie and greater community aspect of rugby sat well with Dunafon.He found the idea of helping your opponent and sense of fairplay for the greater good of the sport intriguing. It brought back memories of his dad and uncle whom he called, “The original Marlboro Men.” “They were world class cowboys – bull dogging, bronco riders… it was a world where you would help the guy you”re competing with on his horse- haze for him- and you were competing with on another. In contrast, when I played football I learned to hate your opponent.”Eventually Island life wore on Dunafon and it was time to return to the States.“I game back to the states in 93, I was developing a case of A.I.M.S. disease – Acquired Island Mentality Syndrome ” where you find yourself on the same bar stool 10 years later.”Back home, Dunafon continued to play rugby and earned a USA Rugby Level 3 Coaching Certification and coached high school age teams. “I”ve never seen a sport that is better for kids ” it allows for travel, doesn”t cost much to play, you create a real fellowship with your teammates and opponents.” Dunafon added. “Another thing about a mentoring sport ” I call it multi-level mentoring – you”re not always there when a kid needs help, so if you have a community, a rugby village, the old boys and gals who are a part of the club are there, and the know the culture ” it”s like a giant family.”In recent years Dunafon was talked into playing in an “old-timers” tournament,but has now hung up his playing cleats. But there is still plenty to do off the field. “There is always politics and sometimes you feel like Sisyphus pushing a rock up hill, put then you feel the positive – the team is incredible and the energy is just building.”The amazing vision and hard work of Dunafon and his team has become a reality and it continues to unfold. Not only do they have the Affinity Field with accompanying Sports Center, Events Center, and High Altitude Training Center that continue to impressed visitors from around the world, but they have just opened a new practice field and Park and have scheduled to open the World Rugby Hall of Fame in the next few years. Dunafon pointed out “Think about, Canton (football), Cooperstown (baseball), Springfield (basketball), they are all little towns that branded themselves after a sport.” Hey, nothings impossible in RugbyTown USA.www.infinityparkatglendale.comPM The Celtic Connection June 2010