Two annual festivals are making their way back to the Peoria riverfront this month: the River City Soul Fest and Erin Feis.

Enjoy a weekend of African-American heritage and culture during the 7th annual River City Soul Fest August 12 and 13. The event is produced by the Peoria Park District. Gates open at 5 p.m., August 12, with entertainment including Gospel choirs and more beginning at 5:30 p.m. The City of Refuge Choir, Gospel Unity Choir from Riverside Community Church, Black Heritage Ensemble Singers, and Integrity Singers kick off the Gospel extravaganza. They’ll be followed by the Central Illinois Mass Choir, a group of talented singers from several area churches.

Headlining the evening’s entertainment at 8:45 p.m. is the world-famous Harlem Gospel Choir, a group of singers from Black churches in Harlem that creates a better understanding of the African-American culture and the inspirational music called Gospel as it relates to the Black church. The choir was founded in 1986 by Allen Bailey, who got the idea while attending a celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem. Since then, the group has performed for Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II, and with U2, Bono, Lyle Lovett, The Chieftans, and Diana Ross.

August 13 features an evening of R&B music for attendees. The gates again open at 5 p.m., and families will enjoy a step show, delicious food and beverages, specialty vendors, art displays, and a great musical lineup. The evening’s entertainment includes local bands, a step show at 7:45 p.m., and musical guests The Stylistics at 10 p.m.

The Stylistics came into prominence in the 1970s with their own distinct R&B sound that utilized the broad falsetto of lead vocalist Russell Thomplins, Jr. The group evolved into one of the best-selling soul groups ever, as the quartet recorded a remarkable 12 straight top 10 hits between 1971 and 1974. Their Grammy-nominated hit “You Make Me Feel Brand New” is a favorite among audiences.

Admission each day is $6 for adults and $2 for children four to 12; children three and under are free. For more information, call 689-3019 or visit www.peoriaparks.org.

The “Luck of the Irish” awaits you August 26 to 28 at the 25th annual Erin Feis. Sponsored by the St. Patrick Society of Peoria and the Peoria Park District, Erin Feis has grown from a one-day event to a weekend festival with an attendance of more than 25,000 people.

“Peoria’s Irish organizations are proud to share 25 years of their heritage and culture through this unique venue,” said John Martin, event co-chair. “Erin Feis offers a fun, family environment for all ages.”

Erin Feis features Irish bands, dance troupes, storytellers, and other performers providing ongoing entertainment throughout the weekend against the backdrop of the Illinois River. In addition, visitors will enjoy the Irish Market Place, the Cultural Village, O’Neill’s Irish Pub, food vendors, the Irish Tea Tent, and Wee Folks Fun Area. A mass is scheduled at 10:30 a.m., August 28, with Bishop Daniel Jenky serving as the celebrant.

Popular Irish singer-songwriter Aoife Clancy returns for her second appearance at Erin Feis. Clancy brings a refreshing new voice to folk music, one that ranges from traditional Irish songs to ballads and contemporary folk. Her father is Bobby Clancy of the legendary Clancy Brothers.
Four new groups appear at this year’s festival: Elevation, The Searson, Two Time Polka, and Baal Tinne. Other favorite bands returning to the music stages are Bloomsday, Brigid’s Cross, Fonnmhor, Switchback, the Kells, Three Men in Kilts, Leahy’s Luck, Arronmore, and the Bogside Zukes.

A favorite among many, the dance stage includes the fancy footwork of Flynn’s Irish Dancers, Mullane School of Irish Dance, and the McNulty School of Irish Dance. The Performing Arts Tent features musical entertainers, Gaelic singers, and storytellers. The Wee Folks Fun Area includes Irish arts and crafts, children’s games, the red hair and freckle contest, and other activities.

The Cultural Tent returns, featuring workshops for the public on speaking basic Gaelic, Celtic mythology, and Irish knitting, as well as demonstrations on how to play the Irish flute, harp, and bodhrum drum, and Irish dance 101.

Admission at the gate is $6 for adults, $2 for children four to 12, and free for children three and under. Admission is free August 28 with the donation of a canned good prior to the mass. In addition, admission is free from 4 to 5 p.m., August 26, and all children’s admissions are $1 on August 28.

Hours for Erin Feis: 4 to 11:30 p.m., August 26; noon to 11:30 p.m., August 27; and noon to 6 p.m., August 28. Single day passes may be purchased, and a full weekend pass sells for $10 for adults or $5 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased 676-8700. For more information, visit www.stpatpeoria.com. AA!