Brian McCarthy has been a regular at Kansas City’s Irish Fest for years.
He plans his vacation and frequent business trips to make sure he’s in town for the chance to rub, and bend, elbows with those similarly enchanted by the music, food and culture of the Emerald Isle.
His wife and kids typically join him in taking up residence at the Westin Crown Center — a particularly good move for this year’s soggy festival — to have a cozy bed near the action.
And on Saturday, McCarthy had the keys to the castle. Actually, it’s a structure with a castle-like facade, but one that held a throne room all the same.
“Right out there where everybody can see it,” said McCarthy, a 44-year-old composite chemicals and plastics salesman from Overland Park.
He was the day’s winner of the Irish Fest’s Lucky Loo contest.
He reads the festival’s blog daily, and he took notice when it announced that the entrants with the cleverest names for an exclusive portable toilet would have the facility to themselves for a day.
Tullamore Dew Dew (a reference to a town in the Irish midlands and, well) landed rights to the plastic outhouse for Friday night. My Too-ra-loo-ra-loo (a musical twist that must have bested Johnny Boy) won exclusive access for Sunday. “A Wee Cottage” impressed the judges, just not enough.
McCarthy landed his place to avoid the lines by dubbing the royal restroom Wizzer of Oz. He’d actually put in two dozen other chances and preferred “County Uncork.”
Whatever zipped up his winning of the contest, it won a privilege of rare refinement. Bathroom accommodations typically mark the least attractive part of almost any festival, particularly those where beer plays a prominent role. (The old adage about how one doesn’t buy the malt beverage, one rents it, comes to mind.)
“It’ll be a lot of fun,” McCarthy said. “We love Irish Fest, and this is something special.”
More broadly, the festival has seen better weekends, although at least one worse. Rain drenched the festival Friday night and kept most of the crowds at bay. On Saturday afternoon, the clouds toggled between drizzle and light rain. The crowd was less than half what’s normal and varied between those with soaked shirts and shorts and those cocooned in rain gear.
“You just keep hoping the skies will clear up,” said Patrick Fallon as he manned a merchandise tent for Irish Imports of Columbus, Ohio. “Hope is all you can do.”
This year marks the 10th for the festival, a consolidation of previous Irish celebrations that had been held on Labor Day in Brookside and Memorial Day in Westport. The first year of the Kansas City Irish Fest took place on the banks of the Missouri River and was a virtual washout from a storm that tested the notion of Irish luck.
“We had to call in tow trucks to pull out tow trucks,” recalled Pat O’Neill, one of the co-founders.
But since the festival’s move to Crown Center, the weather has generally been kinder and the layout a good deal less muddy.
“We’ve got something going that will last,” O’Neill said.