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Hundreds attend Queens Irish Heritage Festival on LIC waterfront

Queens Irish Heritage Festival (Photo: Shane O’Brien)

July 1, 2024 By Shane O’Brien

Hundreds of people flocked to the Long Island City waterfront on Saturday, June 29, for the third-annual Queens Irish Heritage Festival, hosted by the New York Irish Center.

The event, which was initially scheduled to take place last September, but was postponed due to inclement weather, featured three hours of continuous Irish music and dance performances from dozens of artists and dance troupes on a blustery afternoon under the gantries at Gantry Plaza State Park.

Celebrating the best of Irish music and culture, the festival featured performances from renowned Irish and Irish-American musicians, including Irish folk balladeer Allen Gogarty, Irish fiddle player Bernadette Fee, singer/songwriter Niamh Hyland and duo Bob and Bronagh Batch.

Dancers with McManus Irish Dance and the New York Studio of Irish Dance also provided demonstrations of traditional Irish dance during the event, which served as a celebration of Irish culture in Queens.

George Heslin, Executive Director of the New York Irish Center, said it is important to celebrate Irish culture in the borough all year round and that it should not be limited to just St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.

“I think it’s important to celebrate it outside the month of March, so I’m delighted to have this concert in the summertime,” Heslin said. “Everyone enjoys Irish music and culture and being outdoors.”

Heslin said there are around 100,000 “off-the-boat Irish” living in Queens and said the New York Irish Center was keen to focus on artists based in the borough for this year’s event.

However, he added that he hopes to open the event to organizations representing other cultures and areas of New York.

“As the years go by, we’ll invite other organizations to be part of it as well,” Heslin said, adding that the New York Irish Center was keen to celebrate the diversity of Queens and modern-day Ireland.

“Ireland, as a country, is a very diverse nation and that’s being reflected in Irish communities all around the world. It’s so important to include everyone and celebrate that diversity, particularly during Pride month.”

Saturday’s event was sponsored by Tourism Ireland, Amazon and the Irish Government and co-presented by McManus Irish Dance and the New York State Parks Department.

Heslin also paid tribute to the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy for its role in organizing the event.

Queens Irish Heritage Festival (Photo: Shane O’Brien)

HPPC President Rob Basch said the Conservancy credited the New York Irish Center for the role the non-profit plays in the local community.

“The Irish Center does so much great stuff, with its music and what they do for seniors. To bring it out to the park just gives a broader spectrum where they can reach more people,” Basch said.

“They’re always available to you if you need a room for a meeting or if the 108th Precinct needs it.”

He also said Saturday’s event showcased the value of LIC’s waterfront parks.

“It’s a beautiful setting. Even though it is a bit blustery, you can’t go wrong holding an event here with the backdrop of the historic Gantries and the Manhattan skyline.”

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