My stall at An Rí Rá Irish Festival
I have just been reunited with the rest of the team following a three-day semi-solo fundraising effort in Butte, Montana. And now, to explain:
Several months ago I contacted the Montana Gaelic Cultual Society regarding charity fundraising. Each year, the Society holds An Rí Rá Irish Festival in the city of Butte, a 3-day celebration of Ireland’s culture and its connections with Montana. The organisers of the festival showed great interest in our trip, and generously offered us a free booth at which to collect money and also free accommodation while in Butte.
The one snag was that we were scheduled to pass through the city the previous Wednesday, missing the festival by days. After much deliberation amongst the lads, it was agreed that I would stay in Butte from Wednesday to Sunday, set up the booth on Saturday and collect all day. Relief would come from Donal and Eoin, who volunteered to drive 230 miles back from Billings, Montana to man the stall Saturday evening, an offer made all the more impressive by Eoin having to cycle from Big Timber to Billings that same morning! A big thanks to Eoin and Donal for making the effort.
Patrice and Colleen examine the route tattooed on my back
The days went thusly:
Wednesday: I see that Mark has already blogged about Wednesday. It was the one night in Butte that the five of us were together. A big thanks to Patrice Evans and Casey Johnston for putting us all up, and to Patrice again for bringing us to her company picnic at Theresa’s house.
Thursday: I joined the ranks of volunteers who were setting up the Rí Rá festival site on Park Street. With three stages and a plethora of tents to raise, the festival’s volunteers are a hard-working and dedicated bunch. I met a lot of great people that day, and had a great night at the launch reception that night in the Finlen Hotel.
Friday: Following a morning and afternoon of the usual COA admin work, it was off to the festival. I got the chance to see some of the bands and meet more locals. The day was capped off with a trad session in the Finlen Hotel.
Macker, the (Thankfully) Clothed Cowboy
Saturday: The big day. I arrived at Park Street circa 11.30, and, with the help of Teresa, I had the stall ready to go at midday. From 12 o’clock until 7.30 that evening, I waved the Livestrong bucket around, handed out our business cards and gave the whole COA spiel to all passers-by. It was a great opportunity to meet the festival goers, who all showed great generosity and an enthusiastic interest in the cycle. I was kept entertained throughout the day by my fellow Rí Rá volunteers, who stopped for a chat whenever they passed by.
The moment everyone was waiting for came circa 7.30, when Donal and Eoin arrived following their 230 mile drive. The three of us then manned the stall until 11.30 when the festival wrapped up for the night. Of course, the craic was only just beginning in the Finlen Hotel, where we mixed and mingled with the people of Butte ’til the early hours.
My tired self in the car on the way back to Billings on Sunday
I’d like to thank all the people who helped the team and I during our respective days in Butte. Thanks again to Patrice and Casey for the accommodation; thanks to Monica Cavanaugh and Patrice for staying in touch with us these past few months and helping us make it happen. Thanks to all in the Montana Gaelic Cultural Society, and thanks to everyone who donated over the weekend, giving a total of $549 to the Livestrong Foundation. Finally, thank you to everyone for making me feel very welcome in Butte, including Monica, Rick, Patrice, Imelda, Patrick, Teresa, Theresa, Cody, John, Carol and everybody else I met. Admittedly, until we started planning the Cycle of America, I had never heard of Butte, but this wonderful home-away-from-home is now firmly pinned on my map.