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Friday, April 18, 2014
Irish Day brightens up the West End
Sandy volunteers honored by the AOH
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Girls from the Hagen School of Irish Dance performed traditional Irish dances during the parade.

Saturday started out overcast and dreary, but it must have been the luck of the Irish that brought the sun out for the Ancient Order of the Hibernians’ 24th annual St. Brendan’s Day Parade and Festival.

Last year’s festival took place just 23 days before Hurricane Sandy, and this year’s event honored those who helped the community recover in the aftermath of the storm through their volunteerism and generosity.

“It was a nice boost for us to kind of help us get through the first anniversary of the storm,” said parade Chairman Bernie Petty.

The festival featured traditional Irish music, food and vendors lining the streets. Grand Marshal Brian Sharkey led the parade down West Beech Street and through the West End. Bagpipers, drummers and dancers performed in the parade, and many local organizations and officials marched as well.

Michael Carroll and Sean Sullivan were 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, were also honored. Both have helped many Long Beach residents rebuild their homes, and continue to raise money and help their neighbors through the recovery process.

“It was nice that people in this town had a connection to the people who were honored,” said Petty. “People were very happy to see that.”

Petty estimated that between 17,000 and 20,000 people came down to the West End for this year’s festivities.

“We want people to celebrate their Irish heritage, and be mindful and respectful to the residents of the town,” said Petty. “We look forward to everyone coming back for our 25th festival.”

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