The Hooley on the Hudson Festival returns to Kingston’s Rondout Waterfront Sunday, September 5 after it was called off last year over fears of the spread of COVID-19.
The free event kicks off one hour earlier than the traditional noon start time with a special opening ceremony dedicated to the late Bill Yosh who helped to start the Hooley 20 years ago in partnership with Tom Fitzgerald. Yosh, a longtime English teacher at Kingston High School, hosted the Irish Show on WKNY for 37 years. He died in February 2021.
The word around town is that people can’t wait for the Hooley to return said Jim Carey, president of the Fr. Con Colbert Woulfe Division 1, Ulster County Ancient Order of Hibernians. And that includes area officials such as Kingston Mayor Steve Noble. “People are eager to do things and make it out at last,” he said.
This year’s event will be the first to use a new stage in T.R. Gallo Park the city purchased in part with a grant secured by State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston), Carey said.
The Hooley will have two stages instead of the traditional three with the elimination of the Trad stage. “We just couldn’t get people over from Dublin because of the COVID problem,” Carey said. Even without the Trad Stage, the festival will feature more than a dozen bands, all of which are fantastic, Carey said.
They include the Ulster County AOH Pipe and Drums band that will open the afternoon at the Feeney Stage, which features regional talent at 12:30 p.m. and will also perform from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on the Bill Yosh Stage, the one that highlights national and international talent.
Carey said the band has been practicing hard since the pandemic restrictions were eased and this represents the first time the band is playing in full after a contingent performed at the Saugerties 4th of July Parade. “It’s like the ‘Blues Brothers’…we’re getting the band back together,” he said. “The bagpipes are a physical instrument and we had to get back in shape.”
Fans of Irish step dancing can check out performances by the Celtic Heels School of Irish Dance on the Bill Yosh Stage at 2 p.m. and the Farrell School of Irish Dance at the Feeney Stage at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Other featured bands on the Bill Yosh stage include the T McCann Band at noon, and later in the afternoon two-hour sets by Andy Cooney and His Band at 2:30 p.m., Dereck Warfield @ the Young Wolftones at 4:45 p.m. and the Canny Brother at 7 p.m.
Over on the Feeney Stage featured talent includes the Little Creek Band at 1 p.m., Kitty Kelly & Catskill Fever at 3 p.m., Susan and Gerard Band at 5:45 p.m. and McGrooving at 7:30 p.m.
As he jumped between tasks at his family’s business Arace Electronics on Broadway, Carey said the AOH took a big hit financially last year when the Hooley was canceled. “It’s one of our biggest fundraisers,” he said.
Nobody escapes the wrath of this pandemic, he said. “But we hung there and we didn’t go out of business.”
But things are looking much better for the AOH this year with sponsors and food and craft vendors turning out in droves for the event, he said. A core team of 12 volunteers spends month after month organizing the event. That volunteer team swells to more like 30 people who take turns handling a wide range of tasks from bartending to picking up trash, he added.
“People say it’s easy to do something like this until they do it,” Carey said.
And when the Hooley kicks off it’ll be one of the first Irish festivals in the area to return after many of the events, including the AOH’s own Kingston St. Patrick’s Day Parade got knocked out earlier this year.
And in a concession to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, The Hooley is partnering with Ulster County to offer a free pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic as officials try to stem a climb in COVID-19 cases across the area in recent weeks.
As he cleared a table for volunteers to sort out Hooley t-shirts for volunteers, Carey asserted one does not need to be Irish to come and enjoy one last day of fun after a summer full of hard work or perhaps a day to relax before school starts back up the next week.
And Carey emphasized that one doesn’t need to have Irish blood to partake in the fun and camaraderie the Hooley offers. “We’re open to all,” he said.
Parking venues for the Hooley on the Hudson will be the Kingston Plaza, the Cornell Street public lot and Kingston Point. Free shuttle buses will be provided to the Hooley site.
The waterfront park lies just downhill from Abeel Street in Kingston. For more info, call (845) 338-6622 or (845) 246-7195, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ulsteraoh.com.