If you're lucky enough to have a "Complementary" admission, just go through whichever entrance you parked closest to. If you come by bus or shuttle, you will be dropped off in front of the Main Gate. If not, there are ticket booths at all the entrances. Ticket prices in 2008 were $15 per day for adults which is very reasonable for having twelve hours of excellent entertainment. Individuals and groups performing at the festival come from Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the US, and most charge more than the price of admission for a single club or concert ticket. Irishfest is a bargain!
Assuming you are going in the Main Gate in the middle of the grounds, the first thing is the fountain. If it is a warm day, there will be children and "big" kids splashing and getting soaked, and there will be music playing. If you look straight ahead you will see Lake Michigan off in the distance and you will know that you are in the right place. One hundred thousand welcomes!
One thing stands out immediately to those who frequent ethnic festivals; there are thousands of children and TEENS. All festivals are family oriented and have things for young children like face painting, drawing, and games. Irishfest has a wonderful childrens' area which includes a small stage where special performers entertain the kids. There is a large play area with lots of things for young kids to climb, sit, spin, and bounce upon. But unlike many ethnic festivals, at Milwaukee Irishfest there are thousands of teens. There are numerous reasons for this. First, the families of the dancers come to watch their children or siblings perform. In 2008, there were six dance schools with from 30 to 70 dancers each. That is a lot of families. Next, are the friends of the dancers. A majority of the dancers are girls in the upper elementary grades or in high school. They all have friends that come to watch them dance. A big reason for the number of teens in attendance is due to the strength of the Irish families. It seems that if one parent is Irish, then the entire family is Irish. There are other reasons as well, but the overriding reason is the music: Celtic Rock music, that is. Irishfest is the only ethnic festival that has a huge rock scene that uses traditional instruments for rock music. The fact is that Milwaukee Irishfest draws its audience from every age group, but the percentage of teen attendees is much higher than other ethnic festivals. The unfortunate fact is that most teens really don't want to listen to Grandpa's "oom-pah" music. A frequent sight at many ethnic festivals is unhappy teens who feel that they have been forced to do something that they really don't want to do and they let their parents know of their displeasure. At Irish Fest, parents can drop their kids off at the rock stage and communicate with cell phones or text messages. It is that simple.