Irish Day is one of Long Beach’s largest events, drawing thousands to the West End, where the green flows for hours — vendors sell food and other items and restaurants and bars do a booming business.
The Covid-19 pandemic shut down the event last year. The event, called Irish Day for short, but officially the Saint Brendan the Navigator Irish Heritage Day, is scheduled for Oct. 2.
But with modifications.
City officials and representatives of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 17, which organizes Irish Day, have been in talks since July to work out ways to hold the Parade and Street Festival while still adhering to state Covid-19 regulations. Both sides raised the issues at a City Council meeting Thursday night, but said no agreement had been reached. The AOH said it had to be permitted to hold the fair, because proceeds from it, such as $150 to $200 fees charged to vendors, paid for the parade, including pay for bands. The city said Covid-19 infections were “trending in the wrong direction,” and the street fair was an issue.
Late Friday afternoon, the city and the AOH issued a statement, saying they had reached an agreement “on a general framework” that would allow the festival to continue “in a manner that takes into account concerns surrounding Covid-19.”
The statement did not provide additional details, but at Thursday night’s council meeting, Joe Brand, the city’s commissioner of parks and recreation, said municipal parking lots in the West End would be used for some of the vendors so they would be crowded "back to back.”
Additionally, Brand said, there would be no amusement rides, and bars and restaurants would "close at a certain hour.” He did not specify the hour, but the establishments normally close at 2 a.m.
The city and the AOH, in their announcement late Friday afternoon, said the parade would begin at 11 a.m.
“Each party commends the other’s efforts to engage in pragmatic and productive discussions that resulted in the continuation of this much beloved tradition. More details will be announced as they become available,” the statement said.
Dan Traynor, the AOH’s parade chairman, said Friday night, “The city has approved” the event. He said the AOH was “happy to have cooperated with the city,” and vendors would be spaced out, but he was unsure whether municipal lots would be used. Traynor said there would be no single grand marshal this year. “The grand marshal will be the people of Long Beach,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Traynor said the parade could not go forward without the street fair.
He said there are between 50 to 75 vendors, on average, each year, and food vendors are charged $200, and vendors selling trinkets or other items, $150. Traynor said Irish Day attracts several thousand people throughout the day, and those people frequent the bars and restaurants.
Irish Day also supports local charities, including Waterfront Warriors, the Little League and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and it provides some scholarships, Traynor said.
AOH officials had said in recent days that the city allowed other events to take place despite Covid-19. City officials said all events must comply with coronavirus regulations.
The Town of Oyster Bay recently canceled its Oysterfest, and New York City canceled the West Indian Day Parade, city officials noted.
The agreement came after a summer of sometimes heated negotiations, according to both sides. Talks had begun in early July, with both sides agreeing that Irish Day must take place, but the street festival was a sticking point.
The city had been tracking Covid-19 infections rates, which have been rising in recent months. A large number of city employees, as much as 50 percent, are required to staff Irish Day. The city seeks to make sure its workers are protected from infection, which may spread at a crowded event.