By Katie McFadden
The pipes are calling you to St. Camillus’ lot this weekend for a celebration of Irish culture. The 10th Annual Rockaway/Breezy Point Irish Festival, hosted by Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 21, is June 3 and 4.
AOH Div. 21 Parade Chairman John Moroney can remember when the thought of resurrecting Rockaway’s Irish Festival was merely an idea more than 10 years ago. And after the community was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, the AOH knew the community could use a pick-me-up and a reason for Irish eyes to smile once again.
“It’s been a wild ride. I still remember when three of us were kicking around the idea right before Sandy hit, and we said, let’s give it a shot. The Irish fest had been gone for quite some time and the difference is we really wanted to make it family oriented this time. We tweaked it compared to what the old festival was, and it was quite the challenge because after we decided to go ahead with it, Sandy hit and obviously it affected the entire Rockaway peninsula and pretty much all of our members,” Moroney said. “There was some discussion about whether or not to cancel our plans but ultimately, we decided it was something the community really needed. People were under a lot of stress, having a ton of problems, trying to rebuild their lives, and we decided this would be a great stress reliever for the entire community. That first weekend, God blessed us with great weather, and we were able to pull it off. Notwithstanding all the obstacles, it’s been a wonderful festival.”
And this weekend, the AOH is doing it all again. “Here we are celebrating our 10th annual festival and wondering where time went,” Moroney said. Ever since the summer of 2013, the AOH has hosted the annual Irish Festival, with the exception of 2020, when Covid prevented any permits from being issued. But by 2021, despite having to host it later in the year and scaling it down a bit, the festival was back, and it has been restored to its glory ever since. This year will be no different with a grand music lineup all weekend, and even a fun new addition of a dunk tank to help in the AOH’s efforts to make this event a successful fundraiser for the community.
The festival, held at the St. Camillus parking lot on Beach 100th and Shore Front Parkway, will begin with a Mass at St. Camillus at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 3 to bless the festivities. Then the fun begins. With great bands performing each day, folks are going to want to stop by Saturday and Sunday. The festival opens at 11 a.m. both days and the music starts at 1 p.m., ending after 9 p.m. On Saturday’s lineup, Night Visitors kick it off at 1 p.m., followed by the Breezy Point Pipes and Drums at 2:30 p.m. The McClean Avenue Band starts at 3 p.m., followed by Celtic Cross at 5 p.m., and The Gobshites close out the show at 7 p.m.
On Sunday, June 4, The Brooklyn Bards open the show at 1 p.m., and the O’Malley Irish Step Dancers pull out some jigs and reels at 2:30 p.m. The Canny Brothers take over at 3 p.m., followed by The Narrowbacks at 5 p.m., and Big Night Out (formerly Fool’s Night Out) finishes up the weekend entertainment starting at 7 p.m.
The festival will also have many vendors selling Irish goods and more. Plus, there will be four food vendors and a beer tent selling beer, wine and cider for the adults. But kids will be entertained as well with face painting and bouncy houses. And all will be entertained by the new addition of the dunk tank this year. Rockaway resident and AOH member Robbie Salmon is stepping up to the plate to get dunked all day, unless there are other willing participants. There will be a fee to throw a couple balls to try to make Salmon swim, and it’s all for a good cause.
As AOH Division 21 lives up to the AOH motto of, “Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity,” the Annual Irish Festival serves as their biggest fundraiser of the year. Admission for the festival, which comes at the low cost of $15 per day, t-shirt sales, a big 50/50 raffle and now money made on the dunk tank, will all help in the effort of raising funds for local charities.
Moroney says the fundraising aspect, and the celebration of Irish culture are why the AOH members put in the volunteer time and effort to keep the festival going year after year. “We do it to continue to promote and celebrate Irish culture and heritage, and also since the AOH Division 21 is a Catholic charity organization, we want to give back to the community and we have been doing that with each festival, making a donation to numerous organizations throughout the Rockaway peninsula from Special Olympics to the Knights, Rockaway WISH, the Broad Channel Athletic Club, the Breezy Point Catholic Club, and all the parishes. It helps those other organizations continue to thrive and do what they do for the community,” Moroney said. Last year, the AOH was able to donate almost $24,000 to local churches, including to St. Camillus, which Father Richard Ahlemeyer generously allows the AOH to use each year for the festival, and other local organizations that regularly give back to the community.
Tickets for the 50/50 raffle, which will include ten $1,000 winners, plus the grand jackpot, are on sale now, and will be on sale at the festival. Tickets are one for $20, three for $50 or seven for $100. To buy in advance, Venmo John Moroney at John-moroney-9. Winners need not be present when they’re announced late on Sunday, but it’s always fun to see people’s reaction in real-time when their name is called.
But there are plenty of other reasons to attend and help support the festival. “It’s going to be a beautiful weekend weatherwise, excellent music, fun for the kids, food and beverages—I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend and kick off your summer in Rockaway,” Moroney said.
For more information on the festival, check out: www.irishfest21.com/