The Rockaway Beach/ Breezy Point Irish Festival has been celebrating Irish culture and tradition in town since the local Ancient Order of Hibernians revived it in 2013, and each year it has gotten better. With Joe Hurley’s Irish Rock Revue, featuring an all-star group of musicians and other guests headlining Saturday, plus plenty of other great music on tap for the weekend, this year’s festival will give even more reason for Irish eyes to smile.
It’s shaping up to be a beautiful weekend for the 7th Annual Rockaway Beach/ Breezy Point Irish Festival. On Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2, between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., head to the St. Camillus parking lot on Beach 100th Street for a weekend full of Irish music and shenanigans. Since AOH Division 21 brought back the fest, it has proven to be a big hit, and with this year’s lineup, it could be the biggest yet. This year, the stage will have a more central location in the lot, so all can take in the amazing sounds of this year’s acts.
The festival has typically been centered around Irish bands and musicians, but for the first time, local favorites will be getting in on the fun. On Saturday, June 1, popular local band Wine With Sue, which celebrates their 25th anniversary this year, will kick off the music starting at 12:30 p.m., playing both American party favorites, and some Irish tunes. An Irish festival wouldn’t be complete without bagpipes, and at 2:30 p.m., the Breezy Point Catholic Club Pipes and Drums band will play some traditional Irish music. At 3 p.m., a favorite that comes back year after year, Shilelagh Law, will get the party going, followed by the O’Malley’s Irish dancers impressing crowds with jigs and reels. But don’t head home early, or you’ll miss out on the biggest act of the night, Joe Hurley’s All-Star Irish Rock Revue.
Hurley’s All-Star Irish Rock Revue is a longtime New York City tradition featuring a musical-literary collaboration that celebrates, “The Great Irish Songbook,” full of Celtic classics and famous Irish tunes by Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, U2, Van Morrison, The Undertones, and more. Not only will the songs be great, but the roughly 65 musicians coming together to perform them include some of the best in the business. Some of the guest stars include Joe Hurley himself, Denis Leary’s “Rescue Me” star, James McCaffrey, making his first-ever trip to Rockaway, legendary Irish actor and author, 87-year-old Malachy McCourt, Tammy Faye, Albert Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult, Mary Blount of Baby Shakes, Steve Conte of the New York Dolls, NY1 newsman Roger Clark, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Ricky Byrd (guitarist for Joan Jett), Roxy Music bassist Sal Maida, Billy Campion of the Bogmen, Walker Hornung of Brotherhood of the Grape, and much, much more. Plus, some of Rockaway’s top musicians, that Hurley has dubbed, “Rockaway Royalty,” have been invited to join the Revue, including Mike Beasy of BEasy band, Danny Mulvanerty and Bobby Butler of Indaculture, and songstress Tiffany Lyons. The Revue will finish off the night with a more than three-hour set starting at 5:30 p.m.
In its 21 years, Hurley’s Irish Rock Revue has sold out big city venues including Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, Lincoln Center, Highline Ballroom and City Winery, but Hurley isn’t a stranger to Rockaway. He’s previously brought the Revue to the bay at a 2016 summer show at the Bungalow Bar. For Hurley, the peninsula is a place that has a strong hold on his heart. As a town where his father lived at the end of his life, a place rooted in deep Irish culture and a place with an incredible comeback story after Hurricane Sandy, Hurley thought it would be a perfect location to celebrate, "The Great Irish Songbook."
Following Sandy, Hurley came to Rockaway with volunteers to bring supplies to St. Francis de Sales Church, and he followed up by hosting benefit concerts for Rockaway organizations like the Graybeards and Rockaway WISH. In keeping with the tradition of supporting good causes, Hurley says he’s honored to bring his Revue to a place he loves, all for a good reason. “I was out there after Sandy and it was this decimated wasteland, and those at the AOH said they wanted to hold the Irish festival the summer after to bring people back together and they did that. The resurgence here has been incredible. It made me want to bring out the best of the best to Rockaway because Rockaway absolutely deserves it. It’s no easy feat bringing 65 to 75 musicians together but this is all about giving back. The Irish Festival is a fundraiser for different charities, including the Rockaway Special Olympics, which gives us even more reason to for it. It’s a wonderful labor of love for a wonderful area,” Hurley said.
Each year, all of the money raised from the $10 admission, t-shirt sales and a raffle for a trip for two to Ireland, allows the AOH to give back to different organizations throughout the community including local parishes, the Special Olympics program and more. The AOH was able to donate more than $30,000 from last year’s festival alone.
“This has become our signature event marking the beginning of the summer and it’s something where everyone from all neighborhoods can come together and celebrate Irish history and culture,” John Moroney, the AOH’s festival chairperson said. “Plus, it’s a fundraiser for all of these local charitable organizations that need assistance.”
While Saturday’s lineup is stellar, Sunday’s is just as good. Marian Waldon, who is coming from overseas and has the number one Irish country song hit, is kicking off the day at 12:30 p.m. She’ll be followed by The Highland Rovers with “a phenomenal female singer and fiddler,” according to Moroney, at 2:30 p.m. Brooklyn’s Canny Brothers Band is back again and will be entertaining the crowds starting at 4:30 p.m. Finishing off the show, starting at 6:30 p.m., is HellCat Maggie, a seven-piece band from upstate New York, which Moroney says, “people will really enjoy.”
The festival will also include dozens of vendors selling Irish and local goods, food like hamburgers, hot dogs, corned beef sandwiches, a big variety of beers and ciders, and since this is a family-friendly festival, there will be plenty of free activities for the kids, including bouncy houses, face-painting and more.
The festival is rain or shine. Admission is just $10 at the door or free for kids 12 and under. Chairs and coolers are prohibited, but you’ll find plenty of seating and beverages at the event. For more info, check out irishfest21.comBLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS