2013-05-31 / Community

Irish Festival Returns

By Katie McFadden

The Irish festival is coming back to Rockaway. As the summer just gets started, thousands are expected to enjoy a weekend full of fun activities at the Rockaway Beach/ Breezy Point Irish Festival. On Saturday, June 1st and Sunday, June 2nd, the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 21 is holding an Irish festival in the parking lot of St. Camillus Church on Beach 100th Street and Shore Front Parkway. According to Festival Chairperson, John Manning, this will be the first time an Irish festival will be held on the peninsula in 17 years and he promises it will be a good one. “We’re gonna have one hell of an Irish festival,” Manning said. This family-friendly Irish festival will feature music, dancing, food, drinks, crafts, Irish goods and more. The festivities kick off at 10 a.m. on Saturday with an opening mass at St. Camillus Church, followed by an opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. in the parking lot. The festival will then last until 8 p.m. both days and there will be plenty of entertainment throughout the weekend. Saturday will feature musical performances by The Canny Brothers, Andy Cooney, Jameson’s Revenge, Shilelagh Law and U2 Forgettable Fire Band, as well as bagpipes and Irish dancing by the O’Malley Irish Step Dancers. Sunday starts with weekly mass at St. Camillus Church at 11:30 a.m. The day will then start with a performance by the Narrowbacks at noon. The Breezy Point Catholic Club Pipes and Drums Band, Andy Cooney, the O’Malley Irish Step Dancers, the Cunningham Brothers, the County Tyrone Pipe Band and Celtic Cross will also be performing. Manning and the AOH have been planning the festival since August 2012. After Sandy hit, there was even more of a reason to have it. “This is something good for Rockaway. Everyone is tired of having the bad stuff, the same old hurricane stuff,” Manning said. He hopes that the festival will serve as a spirit booster and will give residents the opportunity to take a break from Sandy recovery. “I want for people to put down their hammers and drop their chores for one day and come to this festival,” Manning said.

Proceeds from the festival will go towards Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Some of the money will go towards the church on behalf of Father Ahlemeyer, who gave the AOH permission to use the St. Camillus location. Some money will also go to St. Thomas More Church in Breezy Point, while the rest will go towards those who need it most as they rebuild. Manning has been planning the festival while struggling with his own Sandy recovery as his Breezy Point home was devastated by the storm and needs to be knocked down and rebuilt. While Manning is adamant about coming back to the peninsula, he has heard neighbors say that they can’t afford to start over due to a lack of funds and insurance issues. “That’s who I want to raise funds for,” Manning said. “Mother Nature knocked us down, but she won’t keep us down.” In addition to helping Sandy victims, Manning says the festival will honor those who helped throughout the process. “We’ll be honoring the men and women of the NYC Fire Department, Police, Sanitation and Parks Department for all of their efforts, commitment and dedication before, during and after hurricane Sandy,” he said. An Irish festival used to take place around Beach 108th Street more than a decade ago. Towards the end, there were several issues with the festival as guests got rowdy, which led to it being discontinued, but Manning hopes to change that. “That wasn’t really a typical Irish festival. It’s not what an Irish festival is about and it’s not what AOH is about.” He encourages families to come to the event and children 12 and under are admitted for free. There will be rides and other activities for kids as well as plenty of vendors, food and drinks, making it an event that will be fun for all ages. Manning is hoping that the festival goes smoothly and is a success so that it can return for years to come. Manning expects thousands to attend and already knows groups that are coming from far and wide by the busload.

“Most of the people coming down have been down before and have spent numerous hours volunteering. Now they want to come back and have fun,” Manning said.

Whether a local or a visitor, Manning encourages all to come out for a good time and wants guests to know that “you don’t have to be Irish to attend.”

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