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Volunteer of the Year

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Colleen Kennedy
2021 Volunteer of the Year

Volunteer of the Year

Colleen has been involved with Irish Fest for 41 years. According to her nominators, Colleen has worn many hats. In the early years, she was instrumental in creating the first tea room for the festival. Since that time, she has served in numerous leadership positions in the organization. She is the chair of the Milwaukee Irish Fest Foundation, and she is a long time member of the Fund Development Committee and was chair during the years she was a Board Member.

Like our Family Volunteer of the Year, her service is not exclusive to Irish Fest; throughout the calendar year, she works with the Executive Director on welcoming and accommodating visiting dignitaries as well as helping at various events at the Center. She is currently the Area Supervisor for Guest Relations and has held that role for 20 years. Thank you, Colleen, for your commitment to Irish Fest and CelticMKE, and congratulations!

Dave and Carol Wesolowski
2021 Volunteer Family of the Year

Volunteer of the YearDave and Carol Wesolowski have been involved with Irish Fest for a combined 40 years! Carol and Dave have been the leads for our donation requests for at least the last ten years, and they are leaders for their support of our volunteer retirement program. They’ve worked in the office and the Ward Irish Music Archives, with smiles and great senses of humor. In particular, they have been very supportive to the CelticMKE Center over the years and even more in the last 18 months. They have been able to complete tasks from home while the Center was not operational, including creating the Paddy hands for the Main Gate goodbye at the end of the festival. Please give it up for Carol and Dave Wesoloski! Congratulations and thank you!

Kaite Schaal
2019 Volunteer of the Year

2019 Volunteer of the YearOur 2019 Volunteer of the Year has been a volunteer with the festival since the very beginning. Together, with her sisters, cousins, children, and grandchildren she has continued the tradition of volunteering through the decades. From volunteering at year-round events, helping clean and decorate the CelticMKE Center, to working hard at the festival itself, Kaite has shown great initiative by continuing to help whenever and wherever she may be needed. 

Before the festival begins, Kaite is instrumental in organizing the move to the grounds from the Celtic MKE Center. Once on the grounds, she is key in helping to keep the grounds clean, through her vigorous cleaning of the equipment on the grounds; starting with the coolers and supply areas, and moving onto the bars, taps, and more public areas. She is also the lead cook at our cookout for our setup volunteers, making sure that our volunteer base is well-fed.

Over the years, Kaite has continued to promote new ideas within the festival itself. One of the most important changes she has instituted, which she still spearheads today, is Milwaukee Irish Fest’s recycling efforts.  During the festival, Kaite collects the aluminum cans throughout the grounds, and turns them in at a recycling center for cash. She then donates the cash she receives to the youth of CelticMKE.

Kaite has continued to provide strong leadership within our organization, while helping to bring on and train new volunteers to promote the continuation of our festival. Her new ideas have helped to keep our festival thriving.  It is for her strong dedication and contributions to the festival that we are proud to recognize Kaite Schaal as our much deserved 2019 Volunteer of the Year.

Sandy Mazurek
2018 Volunteer of the Year

Our 2018 Volunteer of the Year has only volunteered with us for the past seven years, but with the amount of work she does for it, it feels like she's been with us much longer! She carries herself with self-assuredness, knowledge and respect for our organization that would typically come from having been a part of something for decades. Her curiosity about Milwaukee Irish Fest (and later CelticMKE) began during her sessions with the Irish Song Circle at O'Donoghue's Irish Pub. 

Over the years, she has been found sorting through old files and helping us become more organized through meticulous note-taking, spreadsheets and charts. She'll jump in to do whatever is needed, no matter how seemingly small the task, always keeping the best interests of the organization at the forefront of her mind. She's counted each and every piece of supply inventory we have in this building; she helps take care of our office building, from kitchen tasks to beverage stocking. 

Recently, she's been helping with our new sponsorship platform, tackling contracts, deposits, and more to ensure that we're taking care of our various relationships! She's also in charge of the enormous, tedious task of printing up every single badge for the volunteers at the festival! In truth, Sandy performs so many tasks for us, both big and small, that we can't even begin to try to list them all here. She keeps us functioning! We're so grateful to Sandy for her dedication and bright personality. She's most certainly struck a chord in our organization, so we're delighted to congratulate this wonderful woman on this much deserved recognition!


The John and Liz Kendellen Family
2017 Volunteers of the Year

John and Liz Kendellen Family Volunteers of the YearThe Volunteer Family of the Year is an award that is not presented often, but it speaks to a history of service and dedication that spans generations. The leaders of the Kendellen family have been volunteering for many years. Their children joined them shortly after that, and now their grandchildren can be seen helping out here and there, too. They have volunteered at our annual Celtic Christmas Boutique [Arts & Crafts Fair], Breakfast with Santa, and on the festival grounds during set up, as well as take down . . .truly being an important presence in every aspect of our organization. 

They begin to work on the next festival before the last one ends; they work on new ideas and processes, meet with their key volunteers and maintain great communication with everyone, including outside vendors throughout the year to ensure continuity and consistency.

The family's service now spans 3 generations, with each generation having the same outstanding work ethic as the generation before. During the festival, you'll find the Kendellen's on the grounds at dawn, texting their volunteers about the glorious sunrise. All of the children and most of the grandchildren have been youth volunteers - from that experience, one was a leader, one was a marketing intern, all have been baristas, and some have volunteered in various other areas of the festival, too. 

The Kendellen's began volunteering in the 1990s. When the coordinator position opened up in their current area, they jumped at the opportunity. They took it to the next level by 'volun-telling' their extended family to volunteer for one shift. Now, you'll see food items that are named after their children, such as Brigid's Mint Brownies or Kiley's Celtic Cupcakes! Congratulations to the John and LIz Kendellen Clan!

Kristina Paris
2017 Volunteer of the Year

Kristina Paris Volunteer of the Year Milwaukee Irish FestThe 2017 volunteer of the year is exceptionally well-organized and well-known for promoting a positive energy and attitude. Kristina is hard-working and has the ability to remain calm under pressure and resolves conflicts with a genuine personality. 

She has worked in many areas of the CelticMKE organization, both on the grounds and throughout the year, even beginning and organizing a few events of her own. After attending a few of our Summer School classes in 1988, she decided to continue throughout the year and became more involved, even hosting other musicians and students in her own home for further lessons. These sessions continued fro 3 to 4 years in her home and inspired to the creation of the Milwaukee Irish Fest School of Music program in 2002, which is now a year-round offering at CelticMKE.

She has worked in the bank area of the festival, specifically with our entertainers, tracking down necessary documents and paperwork. She continues to volunteer with the School of Music and Summer School programs. She has organized Family Day at the Mitchell Park Domes as well as the ever-popular Celtic Christmas Boutique. We are grateful for Kristina and her volunteerism throughout the years, and love the enthusiasm and passion she brings to our organization! Congratulations Kristina!

Joseph Hughes
2016 Volunteer of the Year

Joseph Hughes Milwaukee Irish FestOur 2016 Volunteer of the Year, Joe Hughes, is a person that we all know, respect and admire. Joe has received more nominations for this award over the past 10 years than any other person in that time frame. Joe comes to us from the trenches. Without people like Joe, there would not be a Milwaukee Irish Fest. He is one of our many volunteers who not only dedicate a week of their vacation time to the festival's success but also spends countless hours of preparation in the months before. 

Joe Hughes has been with the festival since the beginning, having started as a bartender in the Miller area. He is a leader, and a worker who is one of the first people on the grounds during festiavl set-up and one of the last persons to leave when the festival is over. 

He is known for his fashionable appearance, outstanding personality and professional demeanor. Our honoree helps to build and deliver the Irish Fest float for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in Milwaukee. He is the coordinator of the Moore Street Market and co-coordinator of the Grounds and Set-Up Area.

In addition to his Irish Fest activities, Joe has organized the Shamrock Club parade and played drums for their Color Guard. He has served as president of the Shamrock Club (Milwaukee Chapter), the Milwaukee Hurling Club and the Shorewood Men's Club. 

Joe's active involvement in the Milwaukee Irish community and his dedication to the Milwaukee Irish Festival makes this year's nominee an outstanding ambassador for our festival. Irish Fest honors Joe Hughes, as the 2016 Volunteer of the Year! Slainte!

Jane Walrath
2015 Volunteer of the Year

Jane WalrathCongratulations to our 2015 Volunteer of the Year, Jane Walrath! Jane Walrath has a passion for the Irish Fest organization and plays a very important part within. Jane is smart and funny and a positive energy and attitude always accompany her. She welcomes new folks into the fold as if they had been part of her life/circle forever. Jane has consistently volunteered for many of the Year round Irish Fest events both inside and outside of the center. Always willing to assist – no matter the task - she is an incredible resource of time, talent, knowledge and experience. She is tireless in her commitment to everything we do at Irish Fest!

Jane’s life has been one of service to others, to Milwaukee Irish Fest and to the community. Jane started her Irish Fest participation in 1981 in the Children's area and in 1984 she became the coordinator of that area. She served as President of the Irish Fest Board from 1999 - 2001, Assistant Treasurer, and board member from 1987 to 2004. She has been involved with the Summer School for over twenty-five years and is the current Director.

Jane has served on many Irish Fest committees including the PR Committee, HR Committee, Green Tie Committee, 30th and 35th Anniversary Committees and the Celtic Boutique.  She has been a long time member of the Entertainment Committee and has represented Irish Fest at many festivals and conferences in the US and Ireland. Jane has volunteered in the office once a week for the past few years and in 2013 undertook the responsibility of co-coordinator of the Entertainment Cafe.

Jane has been a great ambassador for Irish Fest in her activities within the Irish community, which include serving on the Milwaukee Feis Board and planning for Winterfeis. She started as an Irish dancer and went on to become Executive Director of the Cashell Dennehy School of Irish Dance. In addition she has volunteered at the University Lake School, Channel 10/36, and has served on the Hartland/Lakeside School Board. She is a former newspaper reporter for the Lake County Reporter and a former editor for Golden Books.

Milwaukee Irish Fest is proud to have Jane Walrath as our 2015 Volunteer of the Year!

Nancy Madden Walczak
2014 Volunteer of the Year

Nancy Madden WalczakOur 2014 Volunteer of the Year, Nancy Madden Walczak, started with Irish Fest in 1981 in the Information booths. In 1982 she took over responsibility for the Irish Fest Cultural area which was organized into three separate components – cultural, harp and theater arts. Nancy organized many cultural exhibits in the early years of the festival working with associates from the UWM Irish Studies Program and Irish Fest volunteers to bring in exhibits from the Guinness Brewery Museum, James Joyce memorabilia and a Lady Elgin exhibit among others. Her participation in the Milwaukee Harp Ensemble helped jump start a larger presence of harp music at the festival which included a workshop with harpist Derek Bell of the Chieftains on the rooftop of the Park East and an eventual visit to Irish Fest of Janet Harbison and the Belfast Harp Orchestra. She coordinated the Harp area when it moved to the new Folk stage along the lake walk and eventually to the larger harp tent when the Cultural area moved to the south end in 1998. She has been involved with the summer school as a volunteer and frequent lecturer on language and culture since its early inception in 1987. Nancy has lectured on Irish culture for Irish Fest at the Getaway weekend, in the Gaeltacht area, at the Milwaukee County Domes and other Irish Fest related events. She served on the Scholarship Committee, took over the Poetry Contest when the previous coordinator passed away, and is a regular volunteer at year round events. She continues to help keep Irish Fest true to its cultural objectives with new ideas such as a Limerick Contest, docents for tours in the cultural area and Irish “village people” personas in the cultural area. In addition to her many contributions to Irish Fest, Nancy is co-founder of the Irish Studies program at UWM and active with the Shamrock Club, Celtic Women International, the ICHC and the local Irish language club. We are pleased to acknowledge and honor Nancy as our 2014 Volunteer and the community-at-large.

Tom Kennedy
2013 Volunteer of the Year

Leadership, innovation, reliability - these are characteristics often found in individuals who have received past Volunteer of the Year awards. And this year is no exception. Add the knowledge and success that Tom Kennedy has had in the business world, and familiarity with terms like inventory control, supplies, advance planning, improving revenues, customer service and satisfaction, one can understand why his contributions have been so important to the long term success of Irish Fest. Tom served as a member of the Board of Directors from 1986 to 2002 and was on the Investment Committee and Finance Committee for many years. He is the Area Supervisor of the dedicated and hard working volunteers who provide our security and beverage services. If success is measured in inches Tom's success, whether at the festival or any of our year round Irish Fest events, can be measured in ounces. Yes that's ounces as in 12 ounces or 16 ounces. Tom annually negotiates and sets beer prices, cup sizes, craft beer and major brewery brands. He decides whether to serve wine straight up or mixed, and how many satellite bars serve bottled beer. Tom is generally one of the last people off the grounds on the Monday after Irish Fest. He also has mentored his own replacement -now that's really impressive! Congratulations to Tom Kennedy, the 2013 Irish Fest Volunteer of the Year. 

Julie Smith
2012 Volunteer of the Year

Julie is a Milwaukee Irish Fest Area Supervisor, Coordinator of Irish Fest Transportation and a year round office volunteer. As an Area Supervisor, Julie is a tireless advocate for her coordinators and is always around to lend a hand or give them support. During the festival she is in charge of making sure the entertainers and all of our special guests get to and from the airport, festival grounds and anywhere else they need to go. She does an amazing job managing all of our transportation needs, always with a smile and a great attitude. In the office she has been a dedicated volunteer for many years. She not only answers phones and emails but also is a great steward of the Irish Fest Center- watering plants, replacing paper towels, and decorating for the holidays are just some of the many things she does to help keep the Center going. All of us at Milwaukee Irish Fest thank Julie for her years of hard work and dedication and look forward to working with her for many more.

Congratulations Julie!

Maureen Modlinski
2011 Volunteer of the Year

Maureen Murphy Modlinski has been involved with the festival since the very beginning starting as a volunteer and progressing to coordinator and to Supervisor.  In every one of these roles, she has been committed to making the festival a success.  Maureen is a leader who walks the walk and leads by example.  No job is too small or trivial.  She treats fellow volunteers and festival goers with respect and great enthusiasm.  While being a leader, a supervisor, and a former board member, Maureen has stayed under the radar of recognition and just does the job because she truly enjoys being a part of the Irish Fest family.

Maureen is not just visible at the festival but is dedicated and involved throughout the year. It would be easier to make a list of the Irish Fest associated events that she has NOT participated in or chaired than to list ALL the many events of which she has been an integral part.  At most Irish Fest events, you will see Maureen and her family not only attending, but working and greeting others.  When a helping hand is needed, she is one of the first to extend it. Maureen, along with her husband, Dave, has instilled in their children dedication and love for the Irish Fest community.  As a result some new young leaders are emerging. 

The people that nominated Maaureen wrote the following:

“Maureen Modlinski shows a gentleness, thoughtfulness, kindness and compassion to all, with a special emphasis to the Irish Fest Community. We feel that she is very deserving of this award and recognition.  It is time for Irish Fest to show her that she is truly appreciated for her dedication and commitment to the Irish Fest mission for the past 31 years.”

Maureen worked with Chuck Ward to organize the Great Irish Open and gives tirelessly of time and talent to make it an ongoing success.  Presently, she is the Area Supervisor of Outreach where she oversees the Getaway, Christmas Party, St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the choir.  She is the coordinator of the festival marketplace and serves as festival co-supervisor of sales and retail.

Congratulations, Maureen!

Brian Witt
2010 Volunteer of the Year

Brian Witt and Jane Anderson, Milwaukee Irish FestThe 2010 Volunteer of the Year, Brian Witt, lives and breathes the Irish culture and his passion and dedication have contributed significantly to Irish Fest's success and to the advancement of numerous other activities and events in the Irish Community.

Brian attended the first Irish Fest, became a member of the Shamrock Club, took Irish language lessons and became involved with the Irish Fest theater. He has supported Irish music lessons in Milwaukee on a year-round basis, has been involved with the Summer School for years and is an active partcipant in the Online Development Committee. And, of course-Coordinator of the Cultrural Pavilion at the festival.   Witt seeks out exhibits for the Cultural Pavilion that educate and entertain fest goers. He welcomes guest presenters and oversees the exhibit placement and set up in the pavilion. He oversees the set up of each display as well as any special needs of each exhibitor. His work is instrumental in ensuring festival guests enjoy themselves in the pavilion. Witt is also on the Summer School committee. Each year he helps decide who will come over. He looks for those people who will have a widespread appeal, either in a cultural or entertainment fashion. In 2010, Witt took on the initiative of overseeing the Irish Fest history tent, called the Voyager Tent, due to the use of the sail from an earlier exhibit on St. Brendan's voyage done in the earliest part of the decade. Artifacts were exhumed from the 30 years of the festival, as well as pictures and DVDs of early festivals, and had information pillars, showing the attendance and high lights of each year.

Congratulations, Brian!

2022 Festival Sponsors

Thank you to our sponsors & friends! View full sponsor list.

Ireland Bluffs

Aer Lingus Milwaukee Irish Fest Sponsor

Arena Americas at Milwaukee Irish Fest

Associated Bank Milwaukee Irish Fest Sponsor

Audio Biz

Catholic Financial Life

CiderBoys Milwaukee Irish Fest Sponsor

Epic Creative Milwaukee Irish Fest Sponsor

Five Farms Irish Cream

Habush Habush Rottier


Tourism Ireland - Milwaukee Irish Fest Sponsor

Lakefront Brewery

Miller Lite

Northwoods Web Solutions

Parkview-Senior Living Community Center

Vizzy Hard Seltzer

  • Artist
  • Paddy
  • Celtic Canine & Kid
  • Artist with Violin
  • Crowd
  • Irish Fest Fans
  • Young Irish Dancers
  • Young Kid and Dad
  • Wisconsin Irish
  • Young Kids Dancing

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1532 N. Wauwatosa Ave
Milwaukee, WI
Festival Grounds
Henry Maier Festival Park
Milwaukee, WI


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