Great Irish Fair returns to Coney Island

September 27, 2021 Jaime DeJesus
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After a year’s hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the “luck of the Irish” prevailed as people converged on Coney Island to celebrate Irish pride on Saturday, Sept. 25 for the 40th Annual Great Irish Fair of New York.

The event started at the Coney Island Boardwalk at noon and featured music and dance throughout the day. It is hosted by the Irish American Building Society (IABS) and is a family-friendly day that celebrates New York City’s great Irish American heritage and culture. 

The headliner of the event was Gaelic Storm, a band from California that plays traditional Celtic music and Celtic rock music in both the Irish and Scottish traditions.

Honorees at the Great Irish Festival of New York.

Last year’s event was held virtually due to COVID-19, and people watched performances via livestream. This year, people had the choice to attend or watch it online.

Kieran McGirl, member of the Irish American Building Society board, called the day a resounding success.

“We featured a wide variety of vendors and some of the best Irish music the world has to offer,” she said. “The event took months of planning, with the current state of the pandemic. We were pleased with the turnout and were also able to utilize the internet, building off of the success of last year’s virtual fair. Our livestream kept a steady audience for those who couldn’t make it to the fairgrounds.”

All proceeds from the day will go to helping Catholic education.

“The tradition of the Great Irish Fair is one that is near and dear to the true fabric of Brooklyn as a whole and we are honored to carry on that tradition every year,” McGirl said. “Thanks to all who attended and our generous sponsors we were able to meet our fundraising goals this year.”

Charleigh Hansen and her baby enjoy the festivities

This year’s honorees included Kevin Cummings (Chief Brehon); Dick Brennan (The Celtic Cross Award); James J. Wrynn, Esq. (St. Thomas More Award); Maura Coughlin (Al O’Hagan Community Champion Award); Brenda McCabe (Kathleen Slattery Woman of the Year); Caroline Ingram (The Colleen Queen); Martin Dunne (Paul O’Dwyer Memorial Award), Lenard Phelan (Captain Timothy Stackpole Memorial Award); Kevin Browne (Firefighter Thomas Phelan Award); Derek Warfield (The Bard of The Fair); Megan O’Malley (Patrolman Edward Byrne Memorial Award), Father Brian Dowd (Father Mychal Judge O.F.M. Memorial Award); ​​Brendan Leavy (Thomas Cuite Memorial Award); and Frank DeRosa (Bishop Joseph Sullivan Award).

The late Al O’Hagan, for whom the Al O’Hagan Community Champion Award is named, was a former president of the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce and was one of those credited with the rebirth of Coney Island. He was very active in Irish American affairs and was grand marshal of Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1986.

Honoree Lenard Phelan, wearing sash, and his family. Phelan is a veteran firefighter in Brooklyn and Queens who is now a battalion chief.

The members of the Irish American Building Society are from the real estate, construction and engineering industries — industries in which many Irish Americans have historically been involved.

Honoree Kevin Browne with his mom Andrea Browne. Browne has been a nurse for 33 years at Memorial-Sloan Kettering and is the hospital’s deputy chief nursing officer.

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