Chicago Gaelic Park, the Irish cultural center located at 6119 W. 147th Street in Oak Forest, Ill., plays host to many community events, weddings and attracts thousands of people to our city each year. With its mission to perpetuate and promote Irish culture through sports, music, dance, theatre, and religion, Chicago Gaelic Park brings heritage, pride and a sense of community to the city of Oak Forest.
Rooted in the Gaelic Athletic Association’s (GAA) “games of the Gaels”, Gaelic football and hurling which were scattered throughout Chicagoland parks, a dedicated home for GAA sports was always a dream.
Members of the GAA made the dream a reality in 1979, when plans to acquire land and build a facility for their sporting purposes began to take shape. Fortunately, they also had a vision for a home for a wide variety of Irish organizations and activities.
Ground was first broken on the site in the fall of 1983. Attendees of the 1985 grand opening probably wouldn’t recognize today’s facility with the additions of larger banquet facilities, an Irish Pub and office space.
Gaelic Park sits on 62 acres with a main building housing three function rooms, the largest holding a capacity of up to 550 guests. Additionally, the facility boasts The Carraig Pub, a traditional Irish pub which hosts live music every weekend.
At the front of the main facility, guests approach the famine memorial monument and the Volunteer Garden, a beautifully landscaped setting for quiet enjoyment and a favorite for wedding photographs. In back you’ll find an outdoor covered patio area surrounded by shrubs, a waterfall and pergola share space with a children’s playground.
True to its original purpose, the facility encompasses six full-size sports playing fields, a main sports stadium with full locker room, and multiple storage sheds. At the south end of the main sports stadium stands a grotto with statues of St. Patrick, St Brigid and The Blessed Virgin.
Gaelic Park might be best known for its annual Memorial Day weekend Irish Fest, featuring a wide variety of great entertainment performing on five stages, unlimited free carnival rides, kids entertainment, theatre and dance. The festival hosts an Irish pony and dog exhibition, as well as a petting zoo. Irish sports fans play Gaelic football and hurling on the main pitch during the festival. Others enjoy shopping, food, refreshments, and more than 500 Irish step dancers competing in the Chicago Feis on Sunday and Monday.
Additionally, the Chicago GAA hosts Gaelic games every Sunday at Gaelic Park from June through the end of August. Male, female and youth teams participate and compete with each team consisting of 15 players. The 5,000 year-old games are the unique games of Gaelic football, hurling, camogie and handball, and the national games of Ireland.
In the fall, some of Gaelic Park’s playing fields are available to the community for rent for sporting tournaments and activities.
Irish step dancing occurs everyday at Gaelic Park. Local dance schools offer dance classes at various times throughout the week. Set Dancing takes place at Gaelic Park every Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. and Ceili Dancing takes place weekly on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Additionally, music lessons for children and adults are offered on Thursday afternoons beginning at 4:00 p.m.
Special events throughout the year include a New Year’s Eve celebration, a children’s Halloween party, Christmas tree lighting, the Carraig 5K Challenge, an art exhibit by Mary McSweeney, and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser.
Gaelic Park is also the perfect venue for all styles of weddings and receptions, offering the finest food, amenities and service.