Over 25,000 festival-goers pour into Waterloo, Iowa each year for the annual Iowa Irish Fest, nine years running. They come for food, music, and fun! What these Irish Fest fanatics don’t see is that hard work done by IBEW Local 288 that goes on behind the scenes before, after, and during the festival.
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Hi, and welcome to another edition of Hour Power. I’m here at the 9th annual Irish Festival in Waterloo, Iowa. It takes a lot of power to put on an event like this and it couldn’t have been done with out local 288.
Here in this town, nestled in downtown Waterloo is the event of the year for this community. It started out as two guys just hanging out.
Rory Dolan Sr. – Co-Director of Iowa Irish Fest: “9 years ago, Jim Walsh and Buck Clark, two good Irishmen in the community, wanted to have a party. So they planned a party in the back parking lot of Jameson’s. It was very successful! When they did that, they thought ‘Why don’t we move it to Lincoln Park and see if we can make it a little more fun and a little bigger’. And it has just expanded every year into what we have today.”
And when he says expanded, he means over 25,000 people! They now come to a two-block radius to celebrate the culture. But what the festival goers don’t see is local 288 days before getting this festival plugged in.
Ritchie Kurtenbach – Business Representative, Local 288: “Our part with the festival has to do with hooking up the temporary power for the whole festival, whether it’s the generators, the stage, the sound. For the food vendors we also have run power off of generators for that. For the kid’s area and the inflatable’s, we had to get another generator and power pedestal. We have 18 points that we are hooking up electrical for, just for this festival.”
Nick Spencer – Journeyman, Local 288: “I think it’s important to volunteer, because these are our communities, this is where we live. We want to make this place as great as possible so this is the best way for us to do it.”
Chris Jensen – Journeyman, Local 288: “This is my first year helping out at the Irish Fest and I’m just happy to help out the community. Today I’m just hooking up this generator and then I’ll be hooking up some panels that are fed off the generator.”
Once the vendors are set and the stage is in, it’s time to party.
Joan Diver – Band Member, The Screaming Orphans: “This is our second year back at the Iowa Irish Fest and it’s absolutely fantastic. It was one of the highlights of last year. Things go on behind the stage, the show is like – whatever – 19 minutes of performance, but everything that goes on in the days before and the days afterwards is a reason why these festivals are such a success. We could do nothing without all of these volunteers.
Sean McGuinness – Band Member, Dublin City Ramblers: “It’s fantastic, obviously we couldn’t do the gigs without the guys, the electricians, and our sound engineers and everything. And they do an amazing job for a place this size and setting it all up and keeping it going. If they weren’t here, the gig would be totally unplugged!”
And while the band continued to play, they weren’t the only ones thankful for the power.
Michael Siegert – Owner, Shamrock Imports: “The nice thing is, when we come to set up our booth here we plug in and everything is going: our credit card machines, our fans to keep the air moving, our lighting for the evening, everything is top notch with the electricity here at this festival.”
When asked, “What is your competition going to be like today?” Matt Faltis, one of the Highlands Games Participants stated “It actually, we’ve got a mixed class, we have a lot of trap guys, we’ve got a lot of very seasoned Highland Games guys, we’ve got a bunch of just gym meatheads, big strong guys, so it’s going to be real tough today. A huge shout out to the Iowa Irish Fest group, they work for literally months at a time to pull this together.”
Chad Shipman – Co-Director of Iowa Irish Fest: “We couldn’t do this without our local business partners and sponsors like the IBEW and local 288, we couldn’t put a fest on without them. Our sound guys spend 200 to roughly 250 thousand just on entertainment alone. That entertainment could not happen without the electricians.”
When it comes to volunteering, local 288 has some advice for other locals thinking about getting involved.
Nick Spencer: “Do it! It’s the easiest way to get your name out there, get people to see who you are and what we do. And it helps shed a good light on the union.”