In the mid-19th century, a third of Kingston’s population was Irish, many of them sweating it out as laborers in the city’s stone and brickyards. Given this strong Irish heritage, Bill Yosh, a member of the Ulster County Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) Division One, thought that Kingston should have an Irish festival. Now in its tenth year, “Hooley on the Hudson,” as the festival is called, has been a big success and is expected to attract 20,000 people to Gallo Park on the Kingston waterfront this Sunday, September 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Three stages of music and storytelling will ensure a continuous stream of Celtic entertainment. Stage One will kick off with traditional Irish music popular with the older set –“the people who remember Irish radio,” as Yosh put it. The performers will be singer Tommy Flynn from County Clare, accompanied by the New York Showband and the Andy Cooney Band. They’ll be followed by younger groups: McLean Avenue from Yonkers, led by Padraig Allen (with a name like that, you know he’s from the Old Country) and a Philadelphia band called Barleyjuice. “They’re more raucous and will get the crowd moving,” said Yosh.
The second stage will also feature both local and more widely known acts: Tommy Kiernan and Vince Fisher have both come out of retirement to perform, and will light up the stage starting at noon. They’ll be followed by McGroovin’, founded by Kingston High School teacher Michael O’Leary. The Quinn Brothers from upstate New York will be followed by the Moonshiners from Brooklyn, who take the stage at 5 p.m. Also performing will be MacCana, consisting of four brothers from Red Hook and a Kingston fiddler.
Livening up both stages will be Irish step dancers from two companies: the Celtic Heels and Michael Farrell. Filling in the gaps will be the plangent bagpipes of the AOH’s Pipe, Drum and Honor Guard, lending a rich emotionalism to the proceedings; in their Irish tartans, the pipers will also be an impressive sight.
The third stage will be devoted to storytelling. Kate Dudding, Lorraine Hartin-Gelardi, Karen Pillsworth (who is the storyteller laureate of Kingston) and Kate Danaher will captivate the crowd with their inventive tales. There will be craft vendors, selling everything from clothing to jewelry to books. Fortunately, most of the food won’t be Irish: If bangers-and-mash isn’t your thing, no need to worry, since you can also feast on meatball heroes, burgers and other palatable street food.
Free shuttle buses will travel to three parking lots, located at Kingston Plaza, Kingston Point and in Midtown, opposite Frank Guido’s Little Italy, off Broadway. All of the entertainment is free, thanks to the festival’s generous local sponsors. For more information, visit www.ulsteraoh.com.