Parade Chairman Bernie Petty said that the AOH has been working with the city to change the image of Irish Day, which attracts up to 20,000 people each year. “What the AOH wanted to try to do is basically change the face of the parade to bring it back to be more family-oriented,” Petty said. “Going forward, we do not want this community to be synonymous with a total drink-fest on St. Brendan’s Day. We are a charitable organization … we ask all people to be mindful and respectful of our community so that we may continue this tradition. If people cannot oblige this request, they need not come here.”
Schnirman and other officials met in May and August with West End residents, who suggested closing bars and outdoor tents earlier, moving the event to Sunday, moving vendors elsewhere, and possibly holding the festival on the boardwalk. Residents said that they support an event that celebrates Irish heritage, but have had enough of the noise, public drunkenness, public urination, fights and other problems that occur after the parade.
“The day is nice, the parade is nice … it’s afterward, when they’ve been drinking since noon,” said Georgia Avenue resident Patricia Blessinger, adding that bar-goers often relieve themselves on the side of her home. “By 6 p.m., everybody is loaded and they get sloppy. Around 10, 11 p.m., there’s still music and hundreds of people in the parking lot.”
Another Georgia Avenue resident, Judy Rudnic, a co-chair of the West End Beautification Association, said that the festival is “out of control,” and that the noise emanating from local bars is unbearable. “My dishes rattle, that’s how loud it is,” she said.
“It’s horrible,” said Wyoming Avenue resident Rich Papetti. “I go away now, but the neighbors who live within the vicinity of Beech Street barricade their homes. By 2 p.m., people are urinating in front of kids — it’s not a question of more porta-potties.”
Many bar owners said that Irish Day helps them and other local businesses get through the slow winter months, and that they have taken steps to address the noise and other issues in the past. Petty said that many nonprofit organizations, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, also rely on the event to raise money.