DublinCityThe Dublin City Ramblers (above) take the stage, and bagpipers Aidan and Michael Hannigan (below) stroll the grounds, as the Middletown Arts Center plays host to its first-ever Savor the Arts Ireland Festival this weekend. 

Irish MAC“Is there any holiday that lasts as long as St. Patrick’s Day does around here?” the Shore-based folksinger George Wirth queried recently.

While we debate the merits of that observation, it can’t be disputed that, two weeks after the Rumson St. Patrick’s Parade here on the Greater Red Bank Green (plus several days after the actual day of St. Patrick), the ongoing march has delivered us right to Spring’s doorstep, courtesy of a first-ever Gaelic culture celebration in Middletown.

The latest in a newly minted series of weekend-long Savor the Arts happenings — “a series of culture-specific events that blend performances with culinary tastings, exhibits, workshops, armchair travel presentations and more” — Savor the Arts Ireland arrives at the Middletown Arts Center (MAC) for three days of interactive classes, demos, handmade merchandise, Irish ancestry seminars, competitions and entertainments that begin this Friday.

Going on inside the 23,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the Middletown train station, the weekend includes several opportunities for the green-at-heart to get interactive with a Paint-and-Sip art class, a join-in session with an Uillean piper, traditional dance lessons, and an Irish Soda Bread Bake-Off.

There are opportunities as well to simply be dazzled by the talents of bagpipers Mike and Aidan Hannigan, a company of Ceili dancers, as well as the artists whose work is on display in an Irish-themed exhibit at the MAC gallery space — with a sampling of Irish cuisine and whiskey drinks serving to sweeten the deal during the festival, in which individual events range in price from free to $34.

The highlight of the weekend is a Saturday night concert starring the million-selling “Ireland’s Number One Ballad and Folk Group” the Dublin City Ramblers, with the Celtic combo of traditional musicians taking the auditorium stage at 8 pm on March 21. Tickets for that particular event are priced at $30 ($25 for seniors), and can be reserved in advance by calling (732) 706-4100. Admission to a 3 pm performance by Lochport Real is just $5 to holders of tickets for the Ramblers.

Just prior to the start of the show, a special Leadership in the Arts Award will be presented to Rumson’s own Siobhan Fallon-Hogan, the red-tressed star of screen and stage profiled recently on redbankgreen.

Pre-registration is required for many of the events in the Savor the Arts weekend. Take it here for complete schedule details and links to register.