On the Road: Roe prepares for feast

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 23, 2003

Driving through Taopi on these frigid January days, there doesn't appear to be much activity. Don't let this lack of outdoor movement fool you as in doors, one Taopi resident is busy creating the 17th Annual Irish Feast script.

Linda Abbott Roe who lives on her family farm, is the creator of the renowned Irish Feast that used to be held in LeRoy, but for the past two years has been held in Spring Valley. Roe came up with the idea to have medieval Irish Feast after a trip to Ireland.

"I went to Bunratty Castle in Ireland where they put on medieval feasts in period costumes. LeRoy was looking to put on something in March when it is a slow time and I said St. Patrick's Day is March 17th and why not have an Irish Feast," Roe said.

Email newsletter signup

Not many people in this very southern part of the state had ever celebrated St. Patrick's Day. The majority of the population is Norwegian. Now for the past 17 years locals from Grand Meadow, Ostrander, Taopi, Stewartville and LeRoy become medieval Irishmen for five days when they put on the annual Irish Feast.

"We are a happy little family. We are loose and free with our production. The show at Bunratty Castle was two hours long and ours is usually five hours," Roe said. "Ours is better."

The Irish Feast is reminiscent of going to the Renaissance Fair. Food is eaten without utensils and the actors serve the food as well as entertain the guests. The actors have been playing their parts for the past 17 years and are comfortable in their characters. They know how far they can go as far as good taste in recreating this period in time. Kevin the Keep, the comedian, does a monologue that Roe and he write together.

"I don't trust him to write his own words. I can't let him get too bawdy. I am still writing the script. I keep looking for inspiration each day. I like words. I can't say that I am exactly talented. I like old archaic words. One of our lead players, George R. Colbenson, who is from Grand Meadow, is always on me about the old words I put in the script," Roe said.

Sometimes she puts tongue twisters into the script and she doesn't realize it is a tongue twister until the actors recite the words.

"I become a whole different person when I am writing. It is like playing with dolls when you were young. This person says that, and this person something else. I know my characters well," Roe said.

There are no auditions to be part of the cast for the Irish Feast. Roe scouts around to get wenches and her entire family have been part of the cast. Her brother, John did the sword duel for quite a few years until he decided he was too old for it. Last year two brothers, Daniel and Brandon Hamlin, took over the dueling and they were great, Roe said.

"My mother, Helen Abbott, is 85 and she hasn't missed a single year. She loves pointing out to whomever she is sitting by who her family is," Roe said.

The actors are all in period costumes and Roe sews the costumes besides writing the script. She is always sewing some costume at the last minute. Besides the food and monologues there is dancing, and bag pipers come from LaCrosse each year to perform.

This year the Irish Feast is being held in Spring Valley on March 7, 8, 9, 14 and 15. The tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. this Saturday at the Spring Valley Community Center. There is seating for 130 at each feast. The doors open at 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and serving is at 7 p.m. The Sunday feast begins at 4 p.m. Come early to catch the music.

Sheila Donnelly can be reached at 434-2233 or by e-mail at :mailto:newsroom@austindailyherald.com