O'Hanlon's Horsebox, a band of seven irreverent types from Northern Ireland who charmed audiences at the Ireland-Irish Folklorama pavilion, have been hitting the bars of Winnipeg. Whiskey Dix got an off-duty party visit, as did the King's Head and downtown's Tavern United. But at the Toad in the Hole in Osborne Village, they forgot the off-duty rule and burst into an Elvis song.
"Mickey sang a drunken version of Suspicious Minds, with all of us as backup," said Ross McKernan, who fronts the band with Michéal (Mickey) O'Hanlon. Both sport red hair, beards and sunglasses.
The band, from County Armagh, came here as part of a love story. Bandleader McKernan (banjo, vocals) met a Winnipeg nanny who was staying a year in Ireland. "We met in Dublin in a smoky barroom," he says. "And now it's a long-distance romance." It only made sense to get McKernan and the band over here for Folklorama so he could see her again.
Also in the band are Ryan Muldoon, Sean Lynn, Fintan Woods, Conor Langan and Declan McBride. But the guys (age 22-25) have had some difficulty impressing Winnipeg women. Their typical greeting to women back home in Ireland is a friendly shout of "HWARYA!"
"We went to the clubs and met Canadian girls, but scared them all away," said rueful guitarist Woods.
The band was one of the best acts at Folklorama's first week. Psst! Here's a toast to good-natured city nurse Megan Sands, who kept the rollicking pack of seven musicians at her home.
FOLKLORAMA CELEBS: Winnipeg's who's-who have been making the rounds of the Folklorama pavilions, getting front-row seats and up to three meals a night. You can't say no and insult your host.
"The trick is to try a bite of everything," whispered my informant.
Spotted on the Folklorama trail, which is excellent for political shmoozing: Lieut.-Gov. Philip Lee, telling his famous jokes, and his beautiful wife Anita Lee; former lieutenant-governor Pearl McGonigal one table over in her trademark blond French twist; MPs such as Shelly Glover, Lawrence Toet and Larry Maguire; the province's protocol guru Dwight MacAulay; MLAs Melanie Wight, Jennifer Howard, Ron Schuler, Sharon Blady, Christine Melnick and Dave Chomiak made the scene as well. Many city councillors, including Jenny Gerbasi and Brian Mayes, made the rounds, as did Folklorama ambassador-general Diane Dwarka and youth ambassador-general Precious Quejada.
DOUBLE SURPRISE: At a recent wedding at the Fort Garry Hotel, bride Jill Parsonage shocked her groom Jaimie Adelman. In her speech to the guests, she turned to her husband, saying. "And I just want you to know that... you make my dreams come true!" As band started the intro to the Hall & Oates hit, she ran to the stage, jumped up and started singing to her man.
"Everybody was stunned, but soon crowded onto the dance floor to watch. "She did it perfectly," said bandleader Danny Kramer, who had secretly practised it with her at Rock the Mic night at McPhillips Station Casino.
Not to be outdone, later in the evening (with some encouragement from his buddies), the groom performed the five-minute rap song he'd done at his bachelor party in New Orleans: Ladi Dadi by artist Slick Rick.
"It was a complete shock," said his bride. "I had no idea he had such rap skills!" The bachelorette party happened in Vegas with Jill's besties, and she followed up with another party in Toronto, where Jill is a chartered accountant and Jaimie is in sales. Both are from Winnipeg, centre of the musical universe.
FIRST-TIMERS AT CEO SLEEPOUT: "We've gone from 35 people to 150 and counting this year, and that's within three years," says Ari Driver, chairwoman of the homelessness committee for Downtown BIZ. Organizers are hoping for still more CEO types to bed down on the concrete this Sept. 18 for the 2014 CEO Sleepout to raise funds to provide employment opportunities for the homeless and give them a leg up.
Many participants have slept on the streets in previous sleepouts, but the newbies -- about 15 at this point -- need to know it'll be a tuque-and-long-underwear adventure in late September.
First-timers so far include Althea Guiboche, founder of Got Bannock; Dr. Annette Trimbee, University of Winnipeg's president and vice-chancellor; Callie Costello, founder of Callie's Backpacks for Winnipeg's Homeless; Gord Steeves, city mayoral candidate; Sen. JoAnne L. Buth; Lawrence Toet, MP for Elmwood-Transcona; Joelle Foster of Futurpreneur Canada; Kevin Chief, Manitoba's minister responsible for children and youth opportunities; Rana Bokhari, leader of Manitoba's Liberal party, Ron D'errico CEO of Impact Security Group Inc., and Mike Pagtakhan, city councillor for Point Douglas.
Got tips, events, sightings, unusual things going on? Call Maureen's tip line at 204-474-1116, email Maureen.Scurfield@Winnipegfreepress.com, or send letters to Maureen Scurfield c/o The Insider, 1355 Mountain Ave., R2X 3B6.