"We were looking for something to bring attention to the Pinch," says Cindy Montgomery of the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA), noting that traffic to the Pinch District isn't what it used to be. The moribund Pyramid means no more post-event crowds in the neighborhood's restaurants, and the South Main District has diverted folks as well.
That "something" is DNA's first Irish Festival on Saturday, October 1st.
"The Pinch is so rich in history," Montgomery says. Irish immigrants settled into the area in the 1800s, and the Pinch was named after them. From cityofmemphis.org: "The first Memphis immigrants were German and Irish, who established businesses, provided labor, and built some of Memphis' first churches, like St. Mary's with the oldest shrine in the country. Some of the first neighborhoods were also formed, including the Pinch district, which was named for the 'pinchgut' look of the poor, often malnourished Irish railroad workers who lived there."
The festival will include live Celtic music, Irish food from Westy's and TJ Mulligan's, bagpipers, an Irish tea service, and dancing throughout the day by students from the Inis Acla School.
Proceeds from the festival go to the Memphis Irish Arts Foundation, the Hospitality Hub, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Indeed, the Mighty Electric St. Jude Band, made up of St. Jude employees and volunteers who donate their earnings to the hospital, will close the festival with a 6 p.m. performance.
"We want everyone to converge," Montgomery says, "and tip the band."
Irish Festival, Pinch District on Main between Overton and Jackson, Saturday, October 1st, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.