The annual Irish Games are a thing of the past, but the events sponsor, St. Patricks parish in Pasco, is offering a different way to celebrate the gathering of people for fun and enrichment.
Its called Encounter 2013: A Place for Us. This cultural festival is March 16-17 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. Admission is free but donations are welcome.
The two days will be packed with speakers, performers and cultural exhibits, all of which will address a central theme that asks, What makes us most fully human and what unites us as people, said Nina Powers, event coordinator.
Family is at the very heart of human fulfillment, she said. But why this fulfillment is elusive, and how it pertains to happiness will be some of the topics being discussed during the event, she said.
Organizers decided to end the Irish Games with the intent of putting on an event with more substance that would give people something to talk about. They said they wanted to offer something more than an event where kids ride the rides and parents sit in the beer gardens.
Father Daniel Barnett, pastor of St. Patricks parish, says Encounter will pick up where the Irish Games left off.
Its meant to bring people together, to have some fun while fostering conversation, he said. Its also not about membership (in the church) or money. It will provide a place for people to meet equally.
The nondenominational Encounter event will feature speakers exploring a wide range of topics, as well as performances by the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, Mid-Columbia Symphony, Mid-Columbia Musical Theater, Mid-Columbia Ballet, Academy of Childrens Theatre and Los Angeles-based Celtic Spring.
A special guest will be Monsignor Eduardo Chavez Sanchez of Mexico City. He is the leading authority on the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as the Mexican peasant Juan Diego, who said he saw the Virgin Mary in 1531.
The monsignor will speak about why the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is important, Barnett said.
The Encounter opens at 10 a.m. March 16 with a performance by the Mid-Columbia Symphony. Other performances throughout the day include musicians Daniel Oberreuter, Jeremy Neufeld and the Mastersingers.
There also will be theater performances by Shakespeare Walla Walla and Mid-Columbia Musical Theater and the Academy of Childrens Theatre.
Guest artists who will present interactive exhibits are Danica Wixon, a student at Washington State University in Pullman, and West Richlands Davin Diaz.
Wixons exhibit, titled Faces of Grief, was inspired by the struggle and development she experienced with her faith. Diaz took the art of Cameron T. Mills and created an exhibit, Untitled, where he asks viewers to write down their thoughts about Mills paintings. His intent is to get people talking about art.
And talking, listening, sharing is really whats at the heart of Encounter, said Sal Beltran III, a member of the organizing committee.
The human experience is what its all about, to get people together and have fun and communicating with each other, he said. And what better way to do that than with the arts.
Powers hopes that Encounter will reach young adults who spend more time texting than talking.
As a mom I am seeing a different culture emerge with texting more natural than talking, she said. More exposure to human interaction, the arts and conversation is what brings out the best in human nature, she said.
Another guest speaker at the event will be Claire Halpine, whose sister Anna is the founder of World Youth Alliance.
The Encounter is paid for by the generosity of private donors, Beltran said. And by the grace of God, we are blessed that most of the artists are donating their time, he said.
-- Dori ONeal: 582-1514; email@example.com; Twitter: @dorioneal