Cultural fair doubleheader; Hopkins Center for the Arts concert season

Photo by Will Byington Photography
Headlining this year's Irish Fair: Gaelic Storm

Last weekend was a trifecta of annual art fairs: Uptown, Powderhorn, Loring Park. This weekend is a doubleheader of culture and heritage fairs. In St. Paul, the Irish Fair of Minnesota, billed as the nation’s largest free Irish fair, is now in its 35th year. Some 100,000 people are expected to attend the family-friendly three-day event on Harriet Island, a nonstop party of traditional music, Irish dance, Gaelic sports, native Irish dogs, contests (Best Legs in a Kilt), speakers, workshops, storytellers, a Tea Room, shopping, food and drink.

The stellar musical lineup — 12 bands on two stages — includes internationally known and local artists. Among the big names are the chart-topping Celtic band Gaelic Storm, the Irish punk band The Mahones, Irish folk stars Altan, and Manran, a Scottish band that features both Highland and Uilleann pipes. At the Literary Corner, festivalgoers can hear and meet several Minnesota writers with Irish roots and connections including St. Paul poet laureate Carol Connolly, author Gary Bruggemann, novelist (and storyteller, animal scientist, glass cutter, singer, etc.) John Dingley, crime fiction writers Mike Faricy and Erin Hart, writer and poet Mike Finley, and Star Tribune books editor Laurie Hertzel. This year’s Cultural Display introduces an interactive exhibit about the history of Irish music in the Twin Cities.

At last year’s Irish Fair, six sheep escaped during a herding demonstration and ran amok, only to be corralled by a sheep dog and returned to the ring. (“Just doing my job, ma’am.”) We can’t promise similar excitement this year, but there are plenty of other reasons why people return. Friday 3–11 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 11 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. FMI (this is a very thorough website). Don’t want to worry about parking? Download a free transit pass (called a “bus pass” on the website, but it covers light rail as well).

Up the river in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities Polish Festival returns to historic Main Street for its 6th year. This fest is “all things Polish” from food to dogs, demonstrations, activities, and exhibits. The live entertainment includes a lot of polka, some disco — and Chopin. At 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday in the St. Anthony Main Theatre, several pianists including Denis Evstuhin and 10-year-old Joseph Caswell will perform music by Poland’s favorite son and other composers including Liszt, Debussy and Rachmaninoff. The free concerts last 90 minutes. Running concurrently with the Polish Festival is “Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema,” also at the St. Anthony Main. The film screenings are ticketed. Festival hours are Friday 5–10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. FMI. It seems that the Irish get up earlier and stay out later.

Tickets for the 2014-15 concert season at the Hopkins Center for the Arts are now on sale. Highlights include the BoDeans (Oct. 11), Minnesota favorites the Daisy Dillman Band (Jan. 10), The Girls – Lori Dokken, Judi Vina, Patty Peterson, Erin Schwab, Debbie Duncan and Rachel Holder-Hennig (Feb. 14), the great American jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, singing Billie Holiday (March 10), and Manhattan Transfer (April 18). Here’s the complete schedule, with ticket prices and links.

The Picks

Tonight (Friday, Aug. 8) at the Dakota: Ginger Commodore and Debbie Duncan Sing Aretha. Just one thing could top this: seeing the Queen of Soul herself. (Which you can do at this year’s State Fair, but you’ll have to wait until Aug. 22.) Until then, we will happily listen to these two great voices take on Aretha’s hits. With Bobby Commodore on drums, Lee Blaske on piano and Mark Weisberg on bass. 8 p.m., $15 cover at the door.

Tonight at the George Latimer Central Library in downtown St. Paul: “Sunset Boulevard.” The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library winds up its “Writers on Screen” series with this Oscar-winning noir classic about a faded silent-film star (Gloria Swanson) and a hack screenwriter (William Holden). Famous lines: “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small!” “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Free. 90 Fourth St. West, outdoors in the courtyard at dusk.

Saturday at the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis: James Norton and Becca Dilley sign their book, “Lake Superior Flavors: A Field Guide to Food and Drink along the Circle Tour.” The founders of the Heavy Table website take readers on a culinary tour around Lake Superior, eating, shopping, foraging, meeting food producers and artisans (fishermen, cheesemakers, brewers, jam-making monks), and making us want to hop in our car and head north. You can probably do a lot of your Christmas shopping early right here. 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the kitchen demo area.

Saturday at Wolfe Park Amphitheater in St. Louis Park: Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan. Now in its sixth year, formerly called Blood on the Tracks Live, this three-hour tour of Dylan’s music features a long list of Dylan lovers including Stan Kipper, Chico Perez, Gary Lopac, Billy Hallquist, Lonnie Knight, Matt Fink, Ralph Dacut, Jim Steinworth, Aaron Ollswang, Patty Peterson, Gene Lafond, Kenny Krona, Dan Israel, Steve Grossman, Barbara Meyer, James Loney, Barry Thomas Goldberg, Arne Fogel, Mark Lamone, and emcee Marc Percansky. Special appearance by violinist Scarlet Rivera, whom Dylan famously met on a Greenwich Village street corner, then brought into his “Desire” album and the Rolling Thunder Revue tour. 6:30 p.m., 3700 Monterey Drive. Free. (P.S.: Scarlet Rivera plays with her band at the Dakota on Monday.)

Tonight through Sunday: The Fringe winds up its 21st year with final performances and the closing night party at the Varsity. FMI.

Monday: It’s Club Book vs. Talk of the Stacks! In the Club Book corner: Lev Grossman, YA writer of the bestselling “Magicians” trilogy, presents the third and final installment, “The Magician’s Land.” (The series is being adapted as a TV drama by NBC/Universal.) Grossman is also lead book critic and technology writer for TIME Magazine. 7 p.m. at the Roseville Library. For Talk of the Stacks: J.A. Jance, a New York Times bestselling author of mysteries and thrillers. So far, her books have sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. She’ll share her latest addition to the Joanna Brady series, set in the southeastern Arizona desert. 7 p.m. at the downtown library.

Monday at Common Good Books: Lit Up Late. People wait in line all night for new iPhones or Black Friday deals. Local booksellers are betting that we’ll stay up late to get our hands on books we really, really want to read. On Monday at Common Good, Haruki Murakami’s “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” will go on sale at midnight. On Sept. 1, Magers & Quinn will hold a similar event for David Mitchell’s “The Bone Clocks,” and on Sept. 15, Moon Palace will feature John Darnielle’s “Wolf in White Van.” Buy all three books, get a special card punched, and you might win a night at the St. Paul Hotel to read in peace. Doors open at 11:30 p.m.

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