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One of the oldest pavilions in Canada's largest and longest-running multicultural festival, the Irish Pavilion will welcome you with joy, laughter, and plenty of soda bread.

This is according to Joe Savage, who would know better than anyone; not only has he been the Pavilion's coordinator for the past four years, but he's from the heart of Ireland himself.

Born in Dublin, Savage first immigrated to Canada in 1966. His family wasn't quite finished with their homeland, however, as they returned when Savage was four and stayed there for another three years before moving back to Canada permanently.

"I'm proud to be Irish. I'm glad I was born there, I'm glad to have lived there and lucky enough to go back on a regular basis," shared the coordinator. "I still have family there... I just love it, love everything about Ireland."

Growing up, Savage's family honoured his culture, helping found the Irish Association of Manitoba, of which Savage is now president, as well as through Irish dance.

"My mom was a teacher, so she taught Irish dancing," explained Savage, who began to dance himself at the age of eight.

Spending time with other people from the Irish community and sharing stories, too, are ways Savage says his family made sure to prioritize their roots. "Growing up, we did a lot of family-oriented things around the Irish Association, we practically lived there. We loved going there! When our parents told us we were going, it was awesome, we were always excited to go."

His family's continued involvement in Folklorama to this day, he says, has helped them retain their culture, something he thinks is important for everyone to do.

Savage still returns to visit his country every two years. Growing up, his home country wasn't as multicultural as it is today.

"With the joining of the EU (European Union), it really opened the doors for other ethnic groups to come to Ireland."

Family is the key defining feature of the Irish, Savage says. "It doesn't matter where you're from, it's really family oriented."

Irish culture also centres around camaraderie, fun, and community, qualities Savage says their Pavilion really tries to portray to the hundreds of guests they feed and entertain each night of the festival.

"The Irish people are known for their hospitality throughout the world, it's just that whole aspect of community that's so important to me."

The theme of the Pavilion this year is "Pub Life", the coordinator explained. "We want to dispel the rumour that [the Pub] is just a place to go and drink... it's more than that, it's about the socializing and the community." An expanded cultural display, a newly-added bakery, and excellent Irish dancing will charm visitors to the Pavilion this year, as well.

It's the entertainment, Savage advises, will draw visitors in the most when they visit the Pavilion. "The dancing and the music are just so intertwined... you cannot help but smile."

Of course, it takes an army to care for so many visitors. "I have lots of good help," chuckled Savage, "I've been really lucky to be surrounded by a strong group of people." It takes about 100 volunteers each night to run the Irish Pavilion.

Savage doesn't mind the big undertaking, though. He feels as if he's grown up in Folklorama, having been involved since the Pavilion first opened in 1973.

"It's something that's kind of ingrained in me... I'm glad that I'm involved with Folkorama to educate people about Irish culture."

You can visit the Irish Pavilion during the first week of Folklorama, Sunday, August 5 to Saturday, August 11, 2018 at 2050 Chevrier Blvd.