After a year filled with struggle and strife, this year’s Irish Day aims to boost the spirits of the West End and honor those who helped the community in the weeks and months following Hurricane Sandy.
The 24th annual St. Brendan’s Festival, organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5. The parade will step off at 11 a.m. from Washington Avenue and West Beech Street, and continue along Beech into the West End. The festival, which showcases traditional Irish music, food and culture, will run until 5 p.m.
The focus of this year’s Irish Day is on the people who helped Long Beach residents in their time of need. Brian Sharkey, a past president of the local division of the AOH, will serve as grand marshal, and Michael Carroll and Sean Sullivan will be honored as the 2013 AOH Men of the Year. Sullivan, the owner of Swingbelly’s, served food to thousands after the storm, and continues to help the community through Project Pay it Forward — which helps raise funds for and rebuild Long Beach businesses.
Bryan Murphy, founder of the Sandy Help Home Recovery Fund, and Doug O’Grady, founder of the Mohawk Avenue Saint Foundation, will also be honored. Both have helped many Long Beach residents rebuild their homes, and continue to raise money and help their neighbors through the recovery process.
“I think it’s something that this town needs,” said parade Chairman Bernie Petty. “I think it will definitely be much more of a pick-me-up emotionally.”
The festival usually draws about 20,000 people, Petty said, but the AOH is expecting larger crowds this year.
Last year’s festival was nearly canceled when residents proclaimed they were fed up with drunken post-parade revelers who caused problems in the neighborhood, and city officials said that Long Beach could no longer assume all of the costs. But the city, the AOH and local businesses managed to reach an agreement that limited the event’s hours, mandated that bars close early and required businesses to help cover its costs in order to keep it manageable.
Police Commissioner Michael Tangney said that the changes worked so well last year that they would stay in place for this year’s event.