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Festival promoting Irish tourism bound for Boston

Popular chef Kevin Dundon will cook up modern takes on Irish staples at the iFest, coming to Boston this fall.

Globe Staff/file 2006

Popular chef Kevin Dundon will cook up modern takes on Irish staples at the iFest, coming to Boston this fall.

Visitors can sip Guinness as they watch Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains on stage. Step dancers will perform and popular chefs like Kevin Dundon will cook up modern takes on Irish staples such as a rack of lamb with Asian spices.

The culinary, arts, and sports stars of Ireland will take over the Seaport World Trade Center for a three-day festival beginning Sept. 26. Dubbed iFest, the $4 million event was created by the Irish hospitality industry and politicians to promote the country and boost tourism.

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Boston, where more than 20 percent of residents have Irish roots, seemed like a natural place to hold the inaugural festival, promoters said.

“It really will immerse visitors in the best of Irish culture in an experimental, engaging and fun way,” said Rachel Kelly, the chief executive and founder of iFest. “The goal is to give people a fabulous Irish experience to enjoy.”

In a massive tourism effort last year, the country hosted thousands of events under the title of “The Gathering” to draw some of the 70 million Irish descendants living outside Ireland to visit. More than 250,000 foreign travelers visited the island during the yearlong event.

The iFest is another tool to increase tourism, this time taking Ireland on the road to connect with potential visitors.

The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism estimates that about 75,000 people visit Ireland from Massachusetts every year, a figure that includes state residents and travelers from other cities who catch connecting flights at Logan International Airport.

The agency said about 25,000 Irish tourists visited Massachusetts and spent about $31 million in the state in 2012.

The festival is unrelated to the annual Boston Irish Festival hosted by the Canton-based Irish Cultural Centre of New England. That event, which celebrates Irish culture, was held this year during three weekends in late May and early June.

This fall’s iFest will feature cooking demonstrations and food seminars from well-known Irish chefs and Boston’s Barbara Lynch. Bands and artists such as Moloney of the Chieftains, the National Concert Hall, Heathers, Damien Mullane, and the Riptide Movement will perform.

The event will include documentaries, a genealogy class, meet-and-greets with Irish sports stars, and readings from Irish writers.

A tourism showcase will feature the top resorts, hotels, events, and destinations in Ireland. Ticket prices start at $45.

Kelly hopes to expand the event to cities around the globe, aiming to appear at 10 locations and attract 500,000 visitors by 2018.

Taryn Luna can be reached at taryn.luna@globe.com.
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