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Irish Day to draw thousands

Annual event celebrates country’s heritage


Thousands of people are expected to flock to Long Beach Saturday for the 29th annual Saint Brendan the Navigator Irish Heritage Day Parade and Festival.

Hosted by the Ancient Order of the Hibernians Division 17 of Long Beach, the parade will step off at 11 a.m. at Washington Boulevard and West Beech Street and head west to Georgia Avenue.

“We’re all looking forward to a great day to celebrate the Irish heritage, continue the sense of pride in the community and honor local people during the parade,” said Greg Schmalenberger, vice president of the AOH.

Acting City Manager and Police Commissioner Michael Tangney urged parade- and festival-goers to avoid parking along West Beech Street on Saturday, adding that police would clear the street for the festival beginning at 7 a.m. that day.

The festival along West Beech Street — which celebrates Irish culture — will begin at 10 a.m. and run until about 5 p.m., Schmalenberger said.

The parade will feature pipe bands and local school marching bands as well as veterans’, civic, ethnic and religious organizations. It will feature more than 50 vendors, including Irish concessions, entertainment, games, rides, music and dance from New York to Connecticut avenues.

Miguel Rodriguez, a local educator and a coach of the Long Beach Gladiators, a wrestling group, will serve as grand marshal of the parade, and his aides will be Michael Diamond, Brenna Feerick, Chris Jordan and Michael McGovern.

Last summer, 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 the city’s financial woes. Schmalenberger said that if such a measure were to be approved, the AOH would not be able to stage the festival. But the proposal has been tabled until further notice, according to AOH members and city officials.

To help keep the festival manageable, the city, the AOH and local businesses reached an agreement in 2012 to limit the event’s hours and mandated that bars close earlier. The agreement remains in place, city officials said, and the event is expected to end at around 5 p.m., while bars are expected to close at 2 a.m. and stop admitting patrons at 1 a.m.

The city is not requiring the AOH to cover the cost of the event, city officials added, but AOH members are collecting funds from participating restaurants and bars to reduce the cost to the city.

The city pays about $400,000 each year in employee overtime, city officials said in August, for hosting special events like Irish Day and the Super Bowl Polar Bears Splash.

Members of the Surfrider Foundation’s Central Long Island Chapter and Barrier Brewing Co., meanwhile, have organized the “First Annual Beach Street Cleanup,” to take place after the day’s festivities have ended. Barrier Brewing has also crafted a special beer for the event.

Bobby Carlo, the company’s brand manager, said the business has teamed up with Surfrider to help fund its ongoing effort to clean local beaches. “With the help of many of our loyal friends and the local bars and restaurants of Long Beach, we’ve teamed up to create” the cleanup, Carlo said. “So the bar crawl and cleanup, tied together with the release of our new Next Hop IPA, will help raise some good money for a great local cause.”

The city will also host a Kids Fun Zone from noon to 4 p.m. in the West Elementary School yard on Maryland Avenue. There will be rides, games, a DJ and more, for a fee of $5 per child under 12.

Along with Union Beer Distributors and Clare Rose, local sponsors of the festival include the Lancer Insurance Company; Peknic, Peknic and Schaefer LLC; the Inn; the Saloon; Minnesota’s; the Cabana; the Beach House; Shine’s; Speakeasy; The Knights’ Pub; Swingbelly’s; Jetty; Lilly’s and Pour Choices.

Tangney recommended that festival-goers park on Broadway, near the Long Beach Catholic Regional School, and walk, or use public transportation. “Anyone going by train can get on a city bus and be bused down,” he said. “The [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] will be putting on extra patrols in Long Beach for that day because they expect a high volume of ridership.”