Weekend Forecast: Green With Rainbows.  Irish Festival At St. Camillus

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 St. Patrick’s Day may be behind us, but there’s never a bad time to celebrate Irish culture in a place that was once called the Irish Riviera. The Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 21’s 4th Annual Rockaway Beach/ Breezy Point Irish Festival will celebrate with a whole weekend of Irish music, dance, food and goods.

On Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. all are invited to enjoy some festive fun in the parking lot of St. Camillus Church (Beach 100th and Shore Front Parkway). In 2013, the AOH revived the old Rockaway tradition of the Irish Festival, bringing it back as a family-friendly event, which has grown successfully over the years. Last year’s Irish Festival was a big hit as the AOH sold out of all 5,000 event bracelets on the first day. Festival Chairperson John Manning says the event has become the largest Irish festival in New York City.

Manning says it’s important continue this tradition and give the community another way to come together for something positive. “We live in a very Irish community and it’s important to keep the traditions of our heritage alive and it’s nice to see the community come out for this whether you’re from Rockaway, Breezy or Broad Channel,” he said. Another important aspect of the festival is that it’s a major fundraiser for the community. Manning says that so far, the AOH has raised $103,000 from the festival, which goes back to the community. The AOH has donated much of the money to churches like St. Camillus, St. Rose, St. Francis de Sales, Blessed Trinity in Breezy Point and organizations like the Breezy Point Catholic Club, the Knights of Columbus and more.

One of the major highlights of the Irish Festival is the variety of Irish music. Saturday’s lineup starts with the Brooklyn Bards at 12 p.m., followed by Jameson’s Revenge at 2 p.m, the all female rock band, Screaming Orphans at 4 p.m. and the night will finish off with the ever-popular Shilelagh Law at 6 p.m. The great tunes will continue on Sunday with Andy Cooney and His Band starting the day off at 12 p.m., followed by the Cunningham Brothers at 2 p.m., The Narrowbacks at 4 p.m. and McLean Avenue at 6 p.m. There will also be performances throughout the weekend by the O’Malley Irish Dance Academy, the Breezy Point Catholic Club Pipes and Drums band and the AOH Division 7 Pipe Band from Massapequa.

As opposed to past years, the AOH will be running both tents at this weekend’s event where food and beverages will be available for purchase. They’ll have snacks like corned beef, hamburgers and hot dogs from Ludwig’s Catering. This year’s beer sponsors include Anheuser-Busch and Guinness. Manning says that due to the festival’s success, the beer companies actually reached out to the organizers this year. “When we first started this festival, they didn’t think it would become what it has become and this year they reached out to us to be the beverages of choice for the event,” he said.

This year’s festival will have a record 25 vendors selling Irish goods like jewelry, clothing, handbags and more. Many of the vendors will accept credit cards, but Ridgewood Savings Bank will be on-site with a mobile ATM. A unique vendor has also been invited this year. In keeping with the mission of celebrating Irish heritage, Ancestry.com will be on site to help guide those who are curious about their own heritage. “We reached out to Ancestry this year. We felt a lot of people don’t know their history or where their family came from so we approached them and they’ll be here and they’re even reaching out to other cultural festivals now because they thought it was a good idea,” Manning said.

Wanting to break away from the bad reputation of Rockaway’s old Irish Festival held around Beach 108th, the AOH prides itself on not having any negative situations take place during the event. The new Irish Festival is a fun day for the whole family, including kids. General admission is $10, but kids under 12 are free. There are also bouncy castles and other rides plus free face painting to keep the wee ones entertained.

The annual Rockaway Beach/ Breezy Point Irish Festival is made possible by AOH Division 21. Manning says all of his brother Hibernians help with the event in some way as it takes plenty of time and money to plan and it has brought them even closer. “Our motto is Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity, and you see all of that throughout the festival,” Manning said. Fellow Hibernians will join for the event including those from other divisions and even Tim McSweeney, president of the NYS Board of AOH, will pay a visit. AOH Division 21 has 160 members, making it the second largest in the state. New members are always welcome. A member must be a male, at least 16-years-old  and a Roman Catholic with Irish heritage. Applications and more info can be found at www.aohrbny21.org or at the AOH’s recruitment tent at the festival.

Coolers and beach chairs will not be welcome but there will be some seating available. The event is rain or shine. As we go to press, Saturday calls for a partly cloudy day in the high 70s and a chance of rain on Sunday. The event will be relocated into the gym of St. Camillus if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

No matter the weather, the festival is going to create a great atmosphere for all. “Come enjoy the company, enjoy the bands and come out for a great day with your family and friends. What else can you ask for?” Manning said. As the AOH plans on keeping the festival as an ongoing tradition, dates have already been set for next year’s event. It will be held on June 3 and June 4, 2017. For more info about the festival, check out irishfest21.com.

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