EAST COUNTY — Frank Shea never thought he would hope to see more men show off their legs.
But after serving as the chairman of the Irish Celtic Festival, he feels differently — the more contestants in the male-only Best Legs in a Kilt Contest, the better, he said.
Shea and fellow event organizers with Lakewood Ranch Community Activities Corp. (CAC) hope the festival, which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, will draw more than 5,000 attendees this year — the largest crowd in the festival’s three-year history.
“We always have a good turnout for the event, but we’re hoping it’ll catch on more this year,” Shea said.
Festivities include dance and music performances, face painting, artisan booths and more.
This year’s festival will include a 5K run, as well. CAC has partnered with the Wobbly Feet Foundation to host the nonprofit’s first Celtic Festival 5K and Kids Leprechaun Dash. Registration fees will fund research and raise awareness for Ataxia Telangiectasia (A-T) — a rare, neurodegenerative disease, which causes various movement and health complications.
Organizers have expanded the festival’s food offerings to include Scottish and Welsh meals, in addition to Irish/Celtic cuisine and other foods.
The Lucky Dog Parade, for which dogs sport Irish-inspired garb and parade around Central Park, will start at 11 a.m. Dogs compete in categories such as “Most Irish.” The $5 entry fee benefits the Humane Society of Lakewood Ranch.
Nearby, Summerfield Park will host the Manatee Gaelic Sports Club, which will provide Gaelic football and hurling demonstrations throughout the day.
As Shea and his team make preparations this week, inflating green balloons and pulling together decorations to transform Central Park into a miniature version of Ireland this weekend, the festival’s chairman hopes attendees will enjoy the day, while learning a about Irish culture.
“It’s a good day to go out and enjoy some Irish fun,” Shea said.
IF YOU GO
Irish Celtic Festival and Lucky Dog Parade
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 15; Registration for the Wobbly Feet 5K starts at 6:30 a.m., with the run starting at 8 a.m.; Kids Leprechaun Dash starts at 9:30 a.m., with the Lucky Dog Parade to follow at 11 a.m.
WHERE: Central Park, located between Malachite Drive and 44th Ave. E., in Lakewood Ranch
COST: Free; Entry into the dog parade costs $5. Entry into the 5K costs $30 for runners ages 10 and up
PARKING: Available at B.D. Gullett Elementary, 12125 44th Ave. E., Bradenton. A trolley will transport guests to the festival site.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].