20 Years of Great Irish Music-A Capital Region Tradition!
The members of the Board of Directors of Irish 2000 have always loved Irish Music and been leaders in the Irish-American Community. In 1996 they decided to focus their efforts on creating an Irish Festival to appeal to all lovers of Irish music in the Capital District. On September 20, 1997, their idea came to fruition with the first ever Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival (I2K)
Balancing tradition with modern elements of Irish Culture, the next two decades has seen I2K become a huge success. From 2,500 people in Heritage Park (formerly located in Colonie), to now more than 15,000 visitors at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds, I2K has succeeded in spreading Irish Culture and supporting local Irish groups. In addition, it has raised more than $350,000 for charities and non-profit organizations.
This year marks I2K’s 20th Anniversary. It’s a proud moment from its humble beginnings, providing 20 Years of great Irish music and 20 years of giving back to the community
History of the Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival
The idea of an Irish Festival that would appeal to all lovers of Irish music and arts originated during conversations between festival co-founders Matt Nelligan and Jim Shaughnessy in 1996.
Both Nelligan and Shaughnessy had been involved in a number of efforts to increase awareness of the Albany branch of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and to raise funds to create a new Irish Cultural Center in Albany.
The key to achieving both goals was to develop an event that stayed true to the traditions of Irish Culture, while bringing in more modern elements that would appeal to young Irish-Americans. It was finally decided to test these ideas through the development of a music festival.
Since it started, the Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival has grown in both attendance and in the number of entertainment attractions. In 2007, the festival launched a highly successful two day format. Today, Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival is one of the top five Irish festivals in the United States. Its mission is “To preserve and protect Irish Culture in the 21st century.”
During its inaugural year, Nelligan and Shaughnessy were joined by a small, dedicated committee of Hibernians and set out to plan the event without having a firm idea of how popular it might be. The first Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival took place on Saturday, Sept. 20, 1997, at Heritage Park in Colonie. Even with a torrential rain, over 2,500 people packed the music tents to enjoy bands as diverse as the Makem Brothers and Black 47.
Since the goal had been for about 3,000 people to attend, the committee considered the event a success, and plunged ahead with the planning for 1998. Because of the success of the 1997 Festival, the committee sought a larger facility that might better handle the even larger crowds that were expected in 1998. It was decided to have the Festival at the Altamont Fairgrounds. The facility offered the necessary room to grow with annual attendance expected to increase each year.
By 2009, Irish 2000 had continued to go to the point where it moved to the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa. The new venue enables the Festival the opportunity for further expansion in the heart of Saratoga County.
The success of the first Festival, 19 years ago, produced enough profit to allow the Albany Ancient Order of Hibernians to move ahead with the purchase of a new Irish-Cultural Center on Ontario Street in Albany.
The Irish Music and Arts Festival Inc. was officially formed and separated from the Albany Ancient Order of Hibernians to become a 501 C-3 Not-for-Profit Corporation in February 2001.
Through the years, the Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival has grown to welcome more than 15,000 visitors each year. Since its inception, the Festival has donated more than $350,000 to a variety of charities including the Albany Irish-American Center.
Matt Nelligan, Executive Director of the Irish Music and Arts Festival, presents a check for $2,000 to Ronald F. Watson, President and CEO of The Community Hospice, as Steve Manny, Director of Development for The Community Hospice (far left), and Tim Nelligan, former President of the
Irish Music and Arts Festival, look on.
Irish 2000 Benefits Many Organizations
One of the primary objectives of Irish 2000 is to assist other non-profit organizations.
Since the first festival, Irish 2000 has donated more than $350,000 to other non-profit organizations.
Designated charities in 2009 are the Irish-American Heritage Museum in East Durham and Alzheimer’s Association - Northeastern New York Chapter.
The Irish American Heritage Museum is dedicated to recording and presenting the history and heritage and promulgating the traditions of the Irish in America. It develops programs focusing on the unique heritage of the sons and daughters of Erin in America.
The Northeastern New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association serves a 17-county area. There are approximately 500,000 people in the area in need of education, information and referral services and approximately 24,000 family caregivers who need support and respite care.
The festival is under the direction of the not-for-profit Irish Music and Arts Festival, Inc., with headquarters at the Albany Ancient Order of Hibernians’ Irish Cultural Center in Albany.
Beneficiaries of donations from Irish 2000 include:
Irish American Center, Albany.
The building is headquarters for the Irish 2000 Festival, and serves as headquarters for other Irish-American organizations including the Albany Chapters of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians and Junior Hibernians. The center features frequent concerts and on-going practices for the Capital Region’s schools of Irish dance and the Albany Police Pipes & Drums.
Boland, Campbell and Farrell Schools of Irish Dance.
As part of its mission to promote Irish culture and tradition, festival funds support these schools in the Capital Region that bring the exuberance and energy of Irish dance to all who wish to learn.
Project St. Patrick.
The project awards scholarships annually to Catholic seminarians. Project St. Patrick is a joint Catholic Action program of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. It awards individual grants annually to help cover the expenses of men studying to become priests or deans, as well as men and women studying for the religious life.
Hibernian Hunger Project.
A charity of the national Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), the project works to alleviate poverty and hunger in America. Initiated in Philadelphia in the 1990s, funds from the national organization are used to give grants or to match donations from smaller jurisdictions of the AOH. The AOH notes: “The Irish understand hunger and homelessness in a way that few ever will. No nation or people suffered more from the terrors of hunger and poverty than Ireland. Thousands of her people died while many of our ancestors were forced to flee their home.”
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training®.
Billed as is the world's largest endurance sports training program, the program provides training to run or walk in marathons, half marathons, or participate in triathlons and 100-mile bike rides.
The New York Times 9/11 Neediest Fund and the Hibernians 9/11 Fund.
In the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Irish 2000 contributed to these fund that was established to collect contributions to relieve the suffering of families struck by the disaster, including civilians and rescue workers.
Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).
The WWP was founded on the principle that veterans are our nation's greatest citizens. The WWP assists those men and women of the armed forces who have been severely injured during the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations around the world.
Double H Hole in the Woods Ranch.
Founded by Paul Newman and Charles R. Wood, this ranch in Lake Luzerne provides specialized camping and year-round support for children and their families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. The ranch offers camp experiences, at no cost to those attending that are memorable, exciting, fun, physically safe and medically sound.
Community Hospice of the Capital Region
The Community Hospice provides expert care to those who are very ill with any disease, plus we offer help and support for their families.
Father Henry Tansey Scholarship at Siena College
The scholarship’s name was recently changed to The Men and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians Capital Region Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship was established in 1981 and was named in honor of the Albany AOH Division Chaplin, Father Henry Tansey, who was killed in an automobile accident.
Albany’s Irish Rowing Club
American Red Cross.
East Coast Pipers Association.
Governor Thomas Dongan Feis.
Hibernian Project Children.
Juvenile Diabetes Association.
Ronald McDonald House Charities.
St. Andrew’s Foundation.
Scholarships to The College of St. Rose and Siena College.
Shaker Youth Hockey.