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Iowa Irish Fest draws big crowds to downtown to Waterloo for Day 2

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL)- Downtown Waterloo was a sea of green and orange Saturday for Day 2 of Irish Fest. Lincoln Park and the surrounding streets are turned into one big party.

Over the course of the weekend, more than 30,000 people are expected to enjoy some live Irish music, food and beers.

"When there are 30,000 people here, you are bound to run into someone you know," John Murphy said. "We meet people we have not seen in a long time."

There were events all day long on Saturday, starting with a 5K, Keltic competition and a Rugby Tournament.

"The music is the best part of it for me," Ace Ava said. "I like seeing friends and family get back together. I don't mind shopping for a lot of beautiful gifts to get for the family."

Iowa Irish Fest Director Chad Shipman said Saturday morning High Nelly Bike Rally has a record level of participation. As the Irish would say, 'the craic was 90.'

"Record fun is what I am hoping for," Shipman said. "I think we already have record fun."

The drinks started flowing early. Murphy said he pre-purchased drink tokens for 2020's Iowa Irish Fest, which was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. 2020 tokens are still good for drinks this year.

"For the bands, this is their livelihood, and our committee has been planning this, basically for two years to do a live event," Shipman said.

This year's Irish Fest saw the introduction of a Whiskey Garden and the Guinness Experience.

"We have been trying for 15 years to get the top brand ambassador for Guinness here," Shipman said. "We have a Guinness experience going on where you can learn how to pour your own Guinness."

Organizers are following the latest CDC coronavirus safety guidelines. Irish Fest Medical Director Dr. James Poock said they are asking attendees to wear masks indoors, frequently wash their hands, and stay home if they feel sick.

"We ask people to use common sense and take care of each other," Dr. Poock said on Thursday. "The majority of the event is outdoors."

Shipman and other organizers are confident they can have a safe event.

"We are just trying to get the crowd spread out among the grounds more," Shipman said.

They have installed extra sanitizing stations around downtown to encourage hand washing.

"If you are not comfortable in groups or crowds, it is probably not the place for you and if you do not feel good, don't come down," Shipman said. "Otherwise, come on down and have a good time."

The Irish Fest festivities continue Sunday. You can find a full list of activities here or on the Iowa Irish Fest app.