On Saturday my wife and I went to the Dublin Irish Festival. This Dublin is a suburb on the northwest side of Columbus. From what I have heard, the festival is the 2nd largest Irish festival in the United States, behind Milwaukee.
The day started out with a lot of rain, some of it heavy. Wouldn’t you think that would lead to people walking around barefoot at the festival?
Well, you’d be wrong.
I’ve been going to this festival for many, many years, always barefoot. It’s never been any problem. Occasionally, but rarely, one of the ticket-takers might notice and mention my bare feet, and I respond by noting that a lot of people went barefoot regularly in Ireland even in the early 20th century.
We started out with umbrellas—it was that wet. And I seemed to get comments wherever I went. And they mostly weren’t the “good idea” kind of comment; they were the “you’ve lost something” kind of comment.
Folks, the grounds were a morass of water. A lot of the grass was turning to mud, and grounds crew were laying down mulch in as many spots as they could. People were splashing through the water and mud and you could just see their shoes mucking up. You could also just see that these folks feet were squishing around inside their shoes. But it didn’t seem to matter, and I was the oddity by going barefoot.
The comments were friendly comments, but they were still odd just the same. At one booth when I was getting a beer, the vendor said: “You’re missing something!”
The only response I could think of was: “I’m the only sane one here.”
There were a few people barefoot, though.
One of the groups in the Celtic Music Tent was Morningstarre, a local combo from Mt. Vernon. Here’s Caitlin Hedge:
[These are mostly cell phone pictures.]
Her sister there, Rosemary, has on sandals. It was also clear the Caitlin had sandals of her own that she removed. But at least that made sense.
At another booth, a food booth where I was getting some haggis (I have no idea how authentic it is), there was a fairly large puddle that had formed in front of the counter. No problem for me. In talking to another lady waiting there too, she said she’d like to go barefoot there too, but if she took her (soaked) shoes off her feet would get cold. Folks, it was 68°.
So, what was the problem?
I just don’t think it registers that going barefoot is a possibility. That has now become so far removed from the norm that nobody even realizes that it would be a good idea. I saw people continuing to wear flip-flops with muddy water sloshing over the top of the sole (and I can tell you those things get slippery like that).
When it comes to norms, I also saw an interesting illustration of how those work. At the Dublin Irish festival you’ll see a lot of men wearing kilts. Here’s one:
You can see from the water on the table just how wet things were.
But how often do you see men wearing kilts out on the street?
It’s perfectly legal (just as going barefoot is perfectly legal, but nonetheless you rarely see anybody out walking that way).
I really do think that these people mentally limit themselves (just as possible barefooters do the same). They are afraid of the cultural norms and what other people, people they don’t even know or ought to care about, might say.
At the festival, their is a slightly different cultural norm, so these men break out the kilts that they probably would like to wear a lot more, but they feel that this is the only kind of place that they can “get away with it.”
Yet, just as with barefooting, they only limit is in their heads. And not like barefooting, I suspect there’s not a store anywhere around that would kick them out for wearing the kilt. They do this despite not needing a Society for Barefoot Legging.
It’s all in their heads (and often in the heads of barefooters).
The Dublin Irish Festival was great as always. There are almost always big-name acts, like the Red Hot Chilli Pipers (I thought they were so-so, even though a lot of folks really like them), or two years ago, Moira Brennan of Clannad (fabulous!). [Note: these were the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, not the Red Hot Chili Peppers.] But the real fun is discovering the groups and music and vendors and displays that you had no idea about but just happen upon.
What a wonderful show! A mix of great music and dancing. The dancing was not just Irish step dancing, but included tap and some sort of variation from Ottawa. It was a glorious high-energy show, with many of the dancers also playing violin (sometimes at the same time). They really looked like they were having a great time. There were at least two standing ovations and a well-deserved encore. Catch them if you can.
And while I’m plugging what I liked, let me mention one of the vendors, Healy Glass Artistry. I bought a pair of their carved glass wineglasses and these are real pieces of art (as well as being nice wine glasses). Billy Healy, the artist, and carver, is actually from Waterford (though now he lives in Bethlehem, PA.)
That’s a Scottish thistle (ok, I’m not part Irish—I leave that to my wife—but I am part Scottish). I really cannot say enough about how much I like these glasses. By the way, of course, at an Irish Festival he was mainly selling Irish themes. The Irish ones have a green, not red, “gem” in the middle of the picture.
Back to bare feet . . .
I saw a total of 4 other people who were barefooted in these wet conditions perfect for going barefoot. (By the way, it was the wet conditions of Ireland that was part of the reason they rarely wore shoes.) I already showed you Caitlin. Another was a vendor standing on pretty wet grass. And then, about midway through the day, after it had stopped raining for a while but things were still wet, I saw these two girls.
But that was it.
It’s really rather amazing that people are so locked into a mindset that even perfect conditions, and the alternative of ruining shoes, just don’t lead to people going barefoot.
I wish I knew some way to change that.