Early next week two members of the Kansas City Irish Fest board of directors will complete their 5 year terms and join the other retirees in the whiskey lounge to whine about how much better we did things in our day. Today we'll say good bye and thanks to the first of those two fest stalwarts, my good friend Barney Walsh.
Site Host Committee. In our first years at Crown Center with Barney's guidance these gold-clad ambassadors quickly became the face of Irish Fest. Carrying countless strollers in the pre-ramp days, giving directions, reuniting lost children with lost parents, fielding questions and sometimes taking abuse with endless patience and cool–endless patience and cool being Barney Walsh trademarks.
Barney's many talents were noticed quickly by those of us serving on the board at the time and he was appointed to the board himself 5 years ago. As the longest serving board member in fest history myself, I can tell you that there are basically three kinds of festival leaders: those that take a sort of long view and direct the festival as overseer, dealing with broad issues as they arise. They tend toward the reactive rather than the active. There are those that concentrate their energies and interests in developing and improving one specific area of the event. Both can be effective and impactful leaders in their own ways. And then there those rare few who don't step into their board position, they leap in. They have the vision, the passion, the drive and the commitment to seek to shape and improve every aspect of the festival, from the ticket at the gate to the band on the stage. That's Barney.
From engineering front gate signage to structuring the drink token sales system to building beer bottle chandeliers for the Snug to improving crowd control, to herding kids, Barney has truly and quite literally done it all. He's always among the last to leave the grounds at night and the first to arrive in the morning. And yet he never lost sight of what we were really all about: having a good time. As a committee chair, a board member and president, he has set a standard and a work ethic that future fest leaders would be wise to emulate...and good luck with that.
Barney usually ended his emails about fest business with the line "relentless pursuit of perfection." And that kind of sums up his term at the helm. While he has certainly earned a break and some quality time relaxing in the Jameson whiskey lounge next Labor Day weekend, his presence and leadership and relentless pursuit of perfection will be sorely missed.
Thanks for everything, Dr. Walsh.