Green day: Great Irish Fair returns to Coney Island

Getting Gaelic: Brooklynites fête Irish culture at Coney Island’s 37th-annual Great Irish Fair
Photo by Mike Beitchman

They’re turning Coney Island into the Emerald Isle!

With roughly half a year to go before St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish-themed fest will celebrate the Emerald Isle’s culture, food, and music in Coney Island. The 38th annual Great Irish Fair returns to the Ford Amphitheater on Sept. 21 for a day of live music, dancing, food, and drink, designed to reconnect Kings County to its Irish roots, according to the head of the Irish American business boosting group behind the event.

“New York was the gateway for the Irish and now we’re all over the country,” said Martin Cottingham, president of the Irish American Building Society. “It’s important to keep it going because, let’s face it, our community has gotten smaller and moved to the suburbs.”

The stage at the fair will feature a lineup of shamrockin’ local bands, including Shillelagh Law, the Canny Brothers Band, McLean Avenue Band, Jameson’s Revenge, and the U2 cover band Unforgettable Fire. Fans of old-school Celtic tunes can also visit a traditional music tent, according to Cottingham, a Windsor Terrace native with roots in counties Galway and Mayo.

The top o’ the morning on the day of the festival will include a Catholic Mass, followed by a ceremony to honor Irish and Irish Americans of note, including several first responders who served during the September 11 attacks, according to Cottingham.

One honoree is the former Queens Congressman and Irish American Joe Crowley — ousted during the last election by progressive upstart Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who, later in the day, will whip out his guitar to take the stage with the McLean Avenue Band, Cottingham said.

There will be plenty of Irish-themed merch and green-clad fairgoers at the event.
Photo by Mike Beitchman

Dancers from the O’Malley Irish Dance Academy in Marine Park and Windsor Terrace’s Buckley School of Irish Dance will grace the stage with swinging step dancing performances and elaborate traditional outfits. The day will also have plenty of merchants selling Irish food, drink, and crafts, including Celtic crosses and sweaters, all of which will help transport visitors to the Old Country, according to Cottingham.

The event’s proceeds will go to the Futures in Education scholarship program, which offers tuition assistance to students registered at Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn and the northern hinterlands of Queens, he said.

The celebration of Erin’s Isle was launched in 1983 by the Brooklyn chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and took place beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The event moved to the People’s Playground when Cottingham’s firm started organizing it in 2007, because of the beach community’s great atmosphere, said the group’s president.

“It’s a great time to be in Coney Island,” said Cottingham.

Great Irish Fair at the Ford Amphitheater [3052 W. 21st St. at the Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island, (718) 954–9933, www.fordamphitheaterconeyisland.com]. Sept. 21, 9:30 a.m.–9 p.m. $20.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
The festivities will connect Kings Countians with the Emerald Isle.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta