Irish Festival Kicks Off This Weekend

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St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, but you’re not going crazy if you hear the sound of bagpipes and Irish tunes in Rockaway Beach this weekend. AOH Division 21’s 6th Annual Rockaway Beach/Breezy Point Irish Festival is June 2 and 3.

One of the biggest summer kickoff events that is full of old Irish traditions, is back with a full lineup of Irish bands, bagpipers, Irish dancers, vendors selling Irish goods and plenty of corned beef and beer to wash it down. From 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, head to the St. Camillus parking lot on Beach 100th Street to get a taste and earful of Irish culture.

Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 21 has planned an incredible weekend with some popular Irish performers. On Saturday, June 2, the band, Bangers and Mash kicks off the music at 12:30 p.m., followed by the Breezy Point Pipes and Drums band. All female band Girsa starts at 2:30 p.m., followed by some jigs and reels by the O’Malley Irish Dance Academy. Shilelagh Law isn’t closing the evening, but they’ll be on at 4:30 p.m., while Unforgettable Fire U2 Tribute Band, starting at 6:30 p.m., ends the night. Sunday’s lineup is just as great, with The Jeff Conlan Band kicking it off at 12:30 p.m., followed by Tara Pipes and Drums. Hair of the Dog starts at 2:30 p.m. followed by The Gobshites at 4:30 p.m., and longtime favorite, The Canny Brothers, closes the festival starting at 6:30 p.m.

The weekend will kick off with a Mass led by Father Richard Ahlemeyer at St. Camillus, which generously allows the AOH to host this event in its parking lot each year. In addition to the music, there will be plenty to do for the kids, including unlimited cotton candy and bouncy castle rides. Make sure to bring your wallet as dozens of vendors selling Irish and Rockaway goods will be available. There will also be a raffle for two for a trip to Ireland. If you forget cash, Ridgewood bank is providing ATMs  on site. Feeling thirsty? All your favorite Irish beers plus others will be on tap, and even sangria is on the drink menu, which will be perfect to wash down those corned beef sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs and other snacks.

After Hurricane Sandy, the AOH revived the longtime tradition of the Irish festival that used to be held around Beach 109th Street, but has created a family-friendly event with a better reputation that aims to keep Irish culture alive and well. “Rockaway has a decent sized population of people of Irish descent, so we’re trying to keep the heritage alive. It’s also a family event. The old Irish festival was more of a drinking fest. We’ve never had a single incident at our event. This is the 6th year we’re doing it and people have a lot of fun, enjoy the music, do some shopping and keep it civilized,” Irish fest Chairperson John Moroney said.

It’s also all done for a good cause. The Irish Festival is one of the AOH’s biggest events and it is used to raise money for local churches and other organizations. The AOH has been able to donate more than $200,000 back into the community from the event. “The charity aspect is our major motive. Our motto is Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity, so with this event, we’re doing something positive that brings people together and is enjoyable to all, and at the same time, we’re able to donate the money from it and give back to the community,” Moroney said.

The AOH works year-round on a voluntary basis to make sure this event is a success. They’re always looking for new members. Members must be male, of at least 16 years old,  who are practicing Roman Catholics of Irish birth or descent, and who are citizens of United States of America or have declared their intentions to become citizens. For more information about the organization or joining, head to www.aohrbny21.org.

There may be rain in the forecast for the weekend, but the show will go on, rain or shine, and there will be tents to keep people covered, and who knows, maybe even a rainbow will appear to shine over those Irish smiling eyes.

Admission is $10 for adults and free for kids 12 and under.

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