Hooley on the Hudson celebrates all things Irish in Kingston

celtic heels @Considering the richness of the ethnic stew long-simmering in America’s not-quite-melting pot, it’s sort of a shame that March is when all the world’s top Celtic musicians try to cram as many gigs as possible into a whirlwind tour, and it’s the only time of year that you can wangle a loaf of soda bread for love or money (unless you bake it yourself). Now, is that fair? Why shouldn’t we get to enjoy these pleasurable cultural traditions year-round?

Luckily for us in the Hudson Valley, the Ulster County chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (UC-AOH) has taken steps to alleviate that long annual drought when Celtic culture is thin on the ground. For several years now it has been presenting an Irish arts festival on the Rondout waterfront in Kingston called Hooley on the Hudson, and it’ll be back on Sunday, September 1, free of charge.

What the heck is a “hooley” anyway, and how do you tell it from a seisún? They’re not unrelated: A seisún is a jam for players of Irish traditional music, typically held in a pub. Dancing may be involved, and it goes without saying that ale and stout will be consumed. Playing jigs and reels is thirsty work.


A hooley, on the other hand, basically means a raucous party, often held in someone’s home. But it’s hard to imagine an Irish party without live music, whatever the setting. So there’s a fair bit of crossover between the two types of event.

Another usage of the term “hooley” back on the Ould Sod is to mean a strong wind or gale. So it stands to reason that a proper hooley should involve the expulsion of copious quantities of pressurized air, preferably from the bellows of a set of uilleann pipes. And the UC-AOH has its own Pipes and Drums Corps, which will blow audiences away twice on Sunday: at 1:15 p.m. on the Feeney Stage and again at 2 p.m. on the Tara Stage.

Another way is for Irish folks to stir up a gale is with their feet, and Hooley on the Hudson’s entertainment will include performances from the Celtic Heels School of Irish Dance (feet pictured above) at 2:45 p.m. on the Feeney Stage and at 4:15 p.m. on the Tara Stage, and from Solas An Lae at 4:45 p.m. on the Feeney Stage and at 6:30 p.m. on the Tara Stage.

Then there’s the glorious music. Ranging from strictly trad to electrified punk/folk, the lineup of bands at this year’s Hooley on the Hudson includes Vince Fisher & Tommy Kiernan, the Quinn Brothers, the Ruffians, McGroovin, Mac Cana, Tara O’Grady, the Andy Cooney Band, Hair of the Dog and Searson.

The Irish are also renowned for their mastery of the spoken word, so a whole stage is devoted to the grand tradition of storytelling. Karen Pillsworth, Danaher and Cloud, Lorraine Hartin-Gelardi and Kent Busman will be featured.

Food, drink and vendors will be on hand, along with cultural exhibits and kids’ activities, and the Trolley Museum will be open just down the street. The family-friendly event begins at 11:30 a.m. and runs until 9 p.m. in and around T. R. Gallo Park on the Strand. For full performance schedules and other details, visit the Hibernians’ website at www.ulsteraoh.com..

Hooley on the Hudson, Sunday, September 1, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., free, T. R. Gallo Park, Historic Rondout Waterfront District, Kingston; www.ulsteraoh.com.