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A history of Rose & Shamrock


The Rose & Shamrock got its start as an idea by local Irish musician Tom Knapp, the fiddler with Fire in the Glen, who thought Lancaster deserved its own yearly Irish music festival. Tom had organized a one-off music festival years before for Elizabethtown College, but he thought the county -- which has a rich Scots-Irish heritage beneath the Pennsylvania German veneer -- deserved an annual event in the heart of Lancaster city.


Tom approached Harvey Owen, then director of the Ware Center in downtown Lancaster. Harvey enthusiastically embraced the idea and put it on the Ware Center's calendar for February 2014. The festival would be held there for three years before the center's new leadership decided not to continue the event.


That's when Esther Pujol, owner of the Paloma School of Irish Dance and founder of the Lancaster Celtic Arts Foundation, stepped up to keep the festival afloat -- not only breathing new life into the existing event but expanding it to a larger venue and adding a feis -- an Irish dance competition -- to the lineup.


Under Esther's leadership and with a new committee of dedicated volunteers reshaping its vision, the Rose & Shamrock became a free event, now housed more centrally at the Lancaster County Convention Center, with even more music, educational opportunities and competitions in a variety of Celtic cultural arts. The first year under Esther's leadership more than 800 dancers competed in the feis, and attendance was more than attended the first three festivals combined.


Tom's band, Fire in the Glen, and the dynamic duo of Charlie Zahm and Tad Marks have become yearly staples at the festival. Other performers have included headliners Barleyjuice, Dublin 5 and Burning Bridget Cleary, plus local and regional bands including Across the Pond, the Belfast Connection, Birmingham 6, the Celtic Martins, Cormorant's Fancy, Down By the Glenside, the John Byrne Band, the Kilmaine Saints, the Ogham Stones, Seasons and Tommy's Fault.


Now in its sixth year, the Rose & Shamrock is exploring opportunities to grow even further and expand into additional venues in downtown Lancaster. It looks like the Rose & Shamrock is here to stay!

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