The 30th annual Saint Brendan the Navigator Irish Heritage Day Parade and Festival is expected to draw thousands when it returns to Long Beach on Saturday.
The festival is hosted by the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 17 of Long Beach, and AOH President John McGovern said he was hoping for a larger turnout this year to mark the event’s 30th year.
“The St. Brendan the Navigator Irish Heritage Parade and Festival were started 30 years ago by our original members in an effort to help the local community and businesses,” McGovern said. “We have lost some of those members over the years, and we are all proud to be able to continue this tradition in its 30th year to continue to help this community and honor those that we have lost along the way.”
This year’s grand marshal will be retired professional boxer and Long Beach resident “Irish” Seanie Monaghan. McGovern said that Monaghan was chosen because his fights rallied the Long Beach community, particularly after Hurricane Sandy, and honoring him is a way for the community to express its appreciation. Anne Conway, Joseph Moran, Diane Moran and William Philips will serve as aides to the grand marshal.
The parade will begin at 11 a.m. at Hibernian Plaza –– at West Park Avenue and Washington Boulevard –– and will feature nine bagpipe groups along with veteran, civic, school, police, fire and religious organizations. Among the many groups that are expected to march in the parade are the Michelle O’Neill Foundation, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Long Island Rugby, the Long Beach Lightning, the Hagen-Kavanagh School of Irish Step Dancing, the Mayo Society of New York and the Long Beach Waterfront Warriors.
The city will also host a Kids Fun Zone from noon to 4 p.m. in the West Elementary Schoolyard on Maryland Avenue. There will be rides, games, a DJ and more, for a fee of $5 per child under 12.
Last year, the festival had more than 50 vendors, including many Irish concessions, but McGovern said they are expecting the most vendors since before Sandy. The festival, which will run along West Beech Street, will begin at 10 a.m. and run until about 5 p.m., organizers said.
The city and the AOH, along with local businesses, reached an agreement in 2012 to limit the event’s hours and mandated that bars close earlier to manage the large crowds. Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney, who will march in the parade, said the festival is expected to end at around 5 p.m. Local bars, however, are expected to remain open until 2 a.m. — and to stop admitting patrons at 1 a.m.
Tangney also urged festival-goers to avoid driving and parking near West Beech Street. He added that the city would have extra officers to provide safer conditions for residents. Tangney advised festival-goers to act responsibly at the event. If not, he said, the police would step in.
In 2017, city officials proposed raising the price of special-event permits and requiring event organizers to cover the city’s expenses, such as police overtime, in the midst of Long Beach’s financial woes. However, festival organizers said nothing has changed since.
Tangney said the city would pay “well over” $50,000 for overtime and cleanup after Saturday’s events. Last year, local organizations coordinated a cleanup after the festival to help minimize the cost. Tagney said, however, that there is no such effort in place this year.
Though the city is not requiring the AOH, a nonprofit organization, to cover the cost of the event, McGovern said that businesses do contribute to the effort.
This year’s sponsors include many West End businesses, such as Shines, Swingbelly’s, the Inn, Speakeasy, Jetty, the Beach House, Lilly’s and others.
McGovern said that organizers hoped to see big crowds. “As the weather is supposed to be nice,” he said, “we’re hoping everyone will have a great day.”