Rachel Kelly to stage three-day food and drink festival in Boston

iFest to showcase Irish brands including Guinness and Kerrygold

Build it and they will come is what Irish entrepreneur Rachel Kelly is hoping will happen when the doors open on the inaugural iFest event in Boston on September 26th.

The three-day festival of Irish food and drink, music and culture is costing Kelly $3 million (€2.3 million) to stage and she’s hoping that between 30,000 and 40,000 Bostonians will turn up at the Seaport World Trade Centre to help make it a success.

To date, 3,500 tickets have been sold., and whileMs Kelly has signed up a number of sponsors, including Tourism Ireland, Fineos, Guinness and Jameson, Shannon Airport, Aer Lingus and Bord Bia. "It's not for the faint-hearted," Ms Kelly told The Irish Times in Dublin last week. "It's a first-year event and it's been a white knuckle ride at times. It's hard to predict what the demand will be until we open the doors."

Ms Kelly, who worked on the Taste of Dublin festivals for a number of years, has been working on this project for three years. She secured Denis O'Brien's investment vehicle Communicorp as a minority shareholder. Its chief executive, Gervaise Slowey, is a director of iFest Ltd.


“I just got in touch with him [O’Brien] and explained what we were trying to do and he got it straight away,” Ms Kelly said. “He’s been very supportive.”

Ms Kelly said Riverdance co-founder Moya Doherty has also been a “supportive” adviser to the project and has produced a show for the event, which she insists is “not an expo”.

jFest will take place across four outdoor stages and is plugged on the company’s website as being the “ultimate Irish party bursting with music, Irish cuisine, entertainment and laughter”.

Paddy Moloney, Jack L and The Riptide Movement are among the performers, and Irish chefs taking part will include Kevin Dundon and Darina Allen.

There will also be a Guinness Bar, a Kerrygold Bakery and a number of whiskey brands on display, including Jameson and the Dingle Distillery.

There will also be a focus on genealogy targeted at Irish-Americans interested in tracing their roots, while RTÉ will be hosting screenings that tell the story of Irish history through a television lens.

The GAA is also supporting the event and Ms Kelly is planning to show live coverage of the All Ireland hurling final replay between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Croke Park on the Saturday.

Ms Kelly aims to expand the concept. “We’re looking at New York in 2015, possibly Brooklyn,” she said. “Basically, I want to roll it out in cities where there’s a strong Irish diaspora.”

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times