New Irish Festival Kicks Off in Hoboken
Hundreds showed up on Wednesday between 4 and 10 p.m. at Frank Sinatra Park.
While it lacked the pomp and ceremony of the usual parade or the intoxicated frolic of the new Leprecon, the city of Hoboken's first ever Irish Cultural Festival entertained hundreds of people, including many young children, at Sinatra Park on Wednesday night.
Chris Halleron, a longtime Hoboken resident and an Irish American, helped organize the festival. Halleron said he hoped the festival will become a companion to the city's annual St. Patrick's parade, which this year was canceled after the committee that has organized it opposed Mayor Dawn Zimmer's proposal to move the march to a weekday.
Zimmer said that a rise in excessive partying in recent years on parade day has come to endanger public safety. The committee countered that moving the parade away from its traditional falling on the first Saturday in March would be logistically impossible and marginalize the celebration of their heritage.
With the two sides unable to reach a compromise, Halleron and other residents volunteered to organize a new event to recognize Hoboken's Irish heritage.
“We want to show a responsible Irish American celebration,” Halleron said. “But ideally next year we'll have the parade back in addition to the festival.”
The Hoboken Guards hurling club kicked off the festival, holding an exhibition of the sport that is considered to be the Irish national pastime. Hurling is similar to lacrosse in that the players hit a tennis-sized ball with wooden paddles across a grass field towards netted soccer-sized goals. Hurlers have to run continually while having the skill to hit the ball accurately during fast moving and sometimes physical play.
The club, which is sponsored by Mulligan's bar, was founded about year ago and counts 40 members from Hoboken as well as Princeton, Long Island and Connecticut. Many were also born overseas. One of the Guards, Fintan Meehan, learned hurling while growing up in County Clare, Ireland.
“You really have to pick it up at a young age,” Meehan said. “Even at age seven I was a late starter.”
As the night fell, the festival continued at nearby Sinatra Park with several musical performances, including traditional Irish step dancing by the Garden Street School of the Performing Arts and Irish songs performed by musicians Will O'Connor and his accompanying band, New Jersey based Paddy and the Pale Boys, and Dublin act George Murphy and the Black Donnellys.
The Hobokenites who attended ate fried breaded fish and chips served by Kearny based restaurant, the Argyle.
Colin Nisbit, a Hoboken resident, manned the merchandise booth with the rest of his family. His mother is Irish while his father is Scottish.
Nisbit said he was at first skeptical that the city had had enough time to organize the festival, but believed that the springlike weather on Wednesday helped attract more people.
"I'm happy with the way this turned out," Nisbit said. Later during the festival Nisbit, dressed in a kilt, performed with bagpipes. A bagpiper player since the age of six, Nisbit also played the instrument during the raising of the Irish flag at City Hall earlier in the afternoon.
The festival featured a cordoned beer garden, where attendees drank Guinness and other Irish beers donated by Peerless Beverage. All proceeds from the concession sales will be donated to the Hoboken Shelter and to the American Legion Post 107.