Toledo Irish: 5th Annual Glass City Feis

Toledo Irish: 5th Annual Glass City Feis!
By Molly McHugh

The ending to the last article I wrote for iIrish went something like this: “But with planned and even serendipitous meetings, Irish comfort can be found just around the corner.” Little did I know how true that statement would be until my recent trip to NYC.  I feel compelled to share this story, which ends up in Toledo, right next door to my apartment!
Because my office is still in NYC, I had the opportunity to visit my old stomping grounds recently; and what trip would be complete without dragging my co-workers to Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar on 2nd Avenue – if you know, you know!

Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar provides the same ambiance as a pub in Ireland, and it is famous for a couple of things: (1) it only has Guinness on draft and (2) it is one of the only bars in NYC that consistently provides live Irish music and dancing most nights of the week.

How could you go wrong with that combo? Due to COVID and summer in NYC in general, we had the place to ourselves!

Much to my surprise, in walked a former All-Ireland World Champion dancer from Dublin. How did I know that? Well, another person named Molly that I was with had taken dance lessons from him growing up, and she spotted him straight away since we were the only ones in the place! So, who was this legend? Niall O’Leary!

As chit-chat would have it, Molly, Niall and myself got to talking, and it came up that I was from Ohio. This is where things got interesting. Niall mentioned that he was going to be in Toledo in August.

“What,” I said?  Although I have a strong affection for Toledo, I would not necessarily describe it as a summer holiday destination. So why exactly is Niall coming to Toledo? Well, for the Glass City Feis, of course, located in the Seagate Center August 22, 2021, which is right next door to my apartment in downtown Toledo!

Feiseanna, shortened to Feis (pronounced Fesh) is rooted in Irish history. Feiseanna is Gaelic for festival, where locals gather to share in song, dance and music.

The 5th annual Glass City Feis, sponsored by Dr. Thomas McCabe, features competition that ranges from beginner to championship and even offers adult competition. Competitors will dance the Reel, Light Jig, Slip Jig, Treble Jig and/or Hornpipe. While Niall is not one of the competitors, he will be in town as one of the musicians.

As the conversation went on, I learned that Niall’s dance teachers growing up were Kevin Massey, proclaimed by Michael Flatley to be the greatest ever Irish dancer, and Rory O’Connor, the first man to do Irish dancing on radio. For the past three years, I have had the opportunity to co-host Echos of Ireland radio show in Toledo; and when Niall is in town, we plan to record a segment of “Niall Dancing On the Radio.” Be sure to tune in on Sunday, August 22nd ( to hear the magic rhythm of Niall’s feet stream through your radio.

Coincidently, Niall also knew my Irish dance teacher in Toledo growing up. Irish dancing and I didn’t quite have a long relationship so, no, you won’t be seeing an article about my winning the adult competition!

It never ceases to amaze me how small the world can really be, although as someone once said, “They would hate to have to paint it!” Perhaps it has something to do with where you place yourself, but sometimes life is exactly the way it is supposed to be.

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