There is an easy answer to this question, and it doesn’t even require a lengthy investigation or contacting the organizers of the North Texas Irish Festival.
I’ve been to this event many times, and I’m confident in my answer: Yes, this annual event at Fair Park in Dallas is just about as gay friendly as an event can be without being put on by a gay organization.
It’s just a shame that Fort Worth doesn’t have a comparable event. In 2010, we did, but it didn’t get enough support from attendees or corporate sponsors, so it went away just as quickly as it came.
It wasn’t the first Irish festival in Tarrant County, and there’s still a Celtic event held in this county every year. But first, here’s a bit more about the North Texas Irish Festival.
Even Its History Is Gay
The very first NTIF was held in the gayest neighborhood in Dallas, Oak Lawn. Originally called the First Texas Ceili, it was held March 5, 1983.
It was too large for that venue even then, however, and the annual festival quickly moved to bigger digs. The festival has been held at Fair Park on the first weekend in March ever since.
In 1984, the event occupied one building at Fair Park. It has since grown to take up much of the park and is the second largest event held there — second only to the park’s main purpose for existing, The State Fair of Texas.
All you have to do is look around the North Texas Irish Festival to see how gay and lesbian friendly the event is. You’ll find your own kind everywhere you look. In fact, the Irish Festival at Fair Park is a friendly and welcome event that feels like attending a family reunion in more ways than one.
And many of the people there aren’t even Irish. You don’t have to be Irish or meet any other qualifications to attend.
A Tarrant County Version Failed
In October 2010, the organization that puts on the Dallas Irish festival held an event called the Cowtown Celtic Festival at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth. Occupying the arena, the auditorium and some exhibit spaces as well as parts of the grounds, the event was fun for the modest crowd that attended. But the relatively sparse attendance foretold the event’s fate: It was a one-time-only event because it didn’t garner enough participation or sponsorship.
This effort to start a Fort Worth Irish festival was at least in part the result of the folding of the Celtic Heritage Festival held every year in Bedford. When this fall event folded, it left a void that the Southwest Celtic Music Association tried to fill with its new festival.
It’s a real shame it didn’t work out. The event wasn’t well publicized and many Dallas regulars didn’t attend as expected despite good weather and top-name performers.
Still, the Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games are held every summer in Arlington, so Celtic heritage is celebrated in the county after all. This longstanding event attracts some of the same performers and many of the same attendees as the North Texas Irish Festival, and a recent change moves it to May instead of its previous date in the heat of mid-summer.
A Final Note
Whether you’re Irish or not, you’ll enjoy the North Texas Irish Festival if you like music, fun and food. The music offered ranges from traditional Irish and Scottish dance music to rock-infused world music that’s hard to further categorize. The food includes traditional Irish choices as well as modern street-vendor and state-fair-style food.
And the fun is as big as Texas.
The North Texas Irish Festival is fun for the whole family, no matter what your family looks like.