Irish Festival Set for This Weekend

 Irish Festival Set for This Weekend

By Katie McFadden

It’s looking like a beautiful weekend for Irish eyes to smile. Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 21’s 11th Annual Rockaway Beach/ Breezy Point Irish Festival is Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9.

Get ready for a weekend of music, dancing, bagpipes, food, drinks, shopping and fun for the whole family. The Irish Festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. And this year, it’s dedicated to a man who helped make it possible from the beginning by offering up the location at the St. Camillus parking lot on Beach 100th and Shore Front Parkway every year—the late Monsignor Richard Ahlemeyer.

The festival will kick off on Saturday with a Mass at 11 a.m. at St. Camillus Church. The gates open at 11 a.m. The music will begin at 12:30 p.m. with local act, the Irish Mutts, taking the stage. They’ll be followed with a performance by the Breezy Point Pipes and Drums band at 2 p.m. At 2:30 p.m., the Rockaway Troubadors, made up of some local music legends, will perform at 2:30 p.m. At 4 p.m., the O’Malley Irish Dancers take the stage. Crowd favorite Shilelagh Law is on at 4:30 p.m. and the night finishes with Devil’s Brigade from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. On Sunday, gates open at 11 a.m. and The Brooklyn Bards kick off the music at 1 p.m. Sheridan Ruitan follows at 3 p.m. Maggie’s Clan takes the stage at 5 p.m. and The Gobshites will give an epic finale at 7 p.m.

Including some local acts is something the AOH has done for many years to give local talent some exposure. This year, two bands made up of local musicians will be performing. The Irish Mutts—made up of Bobby Butler, Ian Boyle, Joe Boyle, John Bernstein, Danny Mulvanerty and Jenna Baker—and this year, The Rockaway Troubadors, made up of music legends Gerald Bair, Walter Ensor, Gerry Hughes and Mark Magliaro, have gotten together as a special treat for the festival. “They’re the music icons of the Rockaways, going back maybe 40 years. They played the original Irish Festival. They’re a great bunch of talented guys who are definitely deserving of recognition at this festival and I’m glad to see it finally happen,” festival organizer and AOH member John Moroney said.

In addition to great music, there will be food vendors like Meat Up Grill serving up burgers and fries, a vendor dishing up corned beef sandwiches and others. Drinks will be available for purchase, including, for the first time, frozen drinks. Dozens of vendors will be selling Irish goods, local crafts and more. There will be fun for the kids with bouncy houses and face painting available. Admission is $15, and kids 12 and under are free.

There will also be a big 50/50 raffle for ten $1,000 prizes and the grand prize jackpot. Tickets are one for $20, three for $50, seven for $100 and can be purchased from any AOH member in advance, or at the festival. The dunk tank is back with a chance to dunk some Rockaway icons for charity. The annual Irish Festival is not just about a beautiful day celebrating Irish culture in the community, it also serves as a fundraiser, allowing the AOH to make generous donations to various churches and community organizations that will put the money to good use for the community. “Hopefully we have good success and a big turnout so we can continue that tradition of being able to donate money to the charities,” Moroney said. This year, several local businesses, including The Rockaway Times, have also donated toward sponsorships to make the festival a success.

But this year’s festival is dedicated to a beloved man who helped make it a success year after year—Monsignor Ahlemeyer. Father Richie, as he was known to many, died unexpectedly on May 12. Since its inception in 2013, Msgr. Ahlemeyer generously made the St. Camillus lot available for the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 21 to host the annual festival. “Him allowing it to happen, made it happen,” Moroney said. “There are really very few venues in Rockaway where you can pull this off.”

When the AOH Division 21 decided to bring back an Irish Festival as a pick me up for the community that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Moroney says Father Richie was right on board. “We were trying to set it up the summer before Sandy came and clobbered Rockaway, and St. Camillus got hit just as bad as everywhere else. But he was still willing to move forward with it, as were we, and at that time, I think it was a tremendous relief for the whole community because everyone had been fixing their homes and reestablishing their lives and dealing with so much commotion and aggravation. It was something the community needed, and we were willing to move forward, and Fr. Rich joined us and said let’s do it,” Moroney said. “We’re very grateful for that. He could’ve said this is not a good time, with Springman Hall and the gym so damaged, but I think he read the pulse of the situation very well and said let’s do this and take some pressure off the community and let them unwind for a weekend.”

Msgr. Ahlemeyer’s support allowed them to continue hosting the successful festival all these years. And he even tried to bring some extra help from above. “Right before the festival, he would turn the statue of the Virgin Mary and face it westbound to ward off the bad weather,” Moroney said. “One year, it rained everywhere but in Rockaway. You saw all these clouds all over Queens with massive thunderstorms, but we didn’t get hit until 10 p.m. on Sunday, after the festival was over.”

For his many years of support and in honor of him, the festival will be dedicated in Msgr. Ahlemeyer’s honor. “We’re dedicating it to him. He was great and he will truly be missed and I’m sure he’s going to be there in spirit,” Moroney said. Looking at this weekend’s warm and sunny forecast, it seems Father Richie is continuing to give his blessings.

For more information about the Irish Festival, check out

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