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The Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas (ICSA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, public-service organization based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). It was founded in 1996 to develop and enhance local interest in the culture of Ireland and its people, familiarize the general public with the culture of the Irish people and the richness of their contribution to America, reacquaint Arkansans of Irish descent with their culture and ethnic history, and publicize the presence of an active Irish community in the Little Rock area.
During the 1980s, as the result of a surplus of women in the nursing profession in Ireland, many Irish women immigrated to the United States and settled in Arkansas, which faced a shortage of qualified nurses at the time. Recruited by area hospitals, the nurses from Ireland and Great Britain originally intended to work in Arkansas for just a few years and then return to their homeland. Instead, many of them married and settled in the Little Rock area and began to raise families. As their children grew, they realized the importance of passing on their Irish culture and heritage to their American-born children. This led a group of Irish nationals to found the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas.
The ICSA provides Irish food and objects of Irish art for folk festivals and fairs; provides concerts of Irish music and dance; and volunteers time, effort, and resources to various organizations and charities in the area, including the Arkansas Educational Television Network, Arkansas Rice Depot, the Central Arkansas Library System, the Salvation Army of Central Arkansas, and the Arkansas Arts Center—all in an effort to reconnect Arkansans with their Irish heritage.
After the founding of the ICSA, the society held an annual festival on or near St. Patrick’s Day. As the success of the annual festival grew, so did interest in a community-wide parade. In 2000, the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas organized and presented the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Little Rock. The first parade had only twelve entries, but the annual event has grown to almost 100 entries and draws thousands of spectators. The parade route has also expanded over the years to include the River Market District in downtown Little Rock and the Argenta Arts District in North Little Rock (Pulaski County).
For additional information:Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas. http://www.irisharkansas.org (accessed March 16, 2015).
Jim Doyle Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas
Last Updated 5/8/2015
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