The New Jersey Irish Festival is ready to return in a big way, celebrating its 50th anniversary on Sunday, June 5.
The state’s largest Irish heritage celebration has been on pause due to COVID-19. It draws around 15,000 participants each year, organizers say.
The event is set for 10 am to 6 pm at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport.
There will be Irish and Celtic craft, jewelry and merchandise vendors; pipe and drum competitions; Irish step-dancing demonstrations; live music; plenty of food; and a drinks garden with specialty cocktails by Bunratty Fine Drinks.
And don’t forget the popular Human Horse Race.
Participants dressed in full horse costumes will sprint out of the gates and race, all to raise money for charity. This year’s proceeds will benefit The Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
Those interested in participating must raise $1,000 to secure a spot in the race. Races are broken up into two age groups, 49 and under, and over 50. Registration is open now, subject to availability.
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There will be nine live musical performances throughout the day across three stages, including two Irish bands now touring the US: The Druids, and Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones. Other acts are Bangers and Mash (from New York), Innisfree (South Jersey), Ryan’s Express (North Jersey), The Shantys (Philadelphia), The Snakes (South Jersey) and The Bantry Boys (South Jersey).
The day begins with a Roman Catholic Mass at 10 am
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Brianna Kostecka, general chairwoman, is excited for the festival’s return.
“While the last two years have been challenging, our committee has done an incredible job lining-up a great day to celebrate Irish heritage, coupled with the exciting racing action that Monmouth Park Raceway is known for,” she said in a news release.
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Tickets to the festival are included with paid admission to Monmouth Park. Attendees can enjoy all of the races on June 5.
For a full schedule of events and more information, or to register for piping and drumming competitions or the Human Horse Race, visit NJIrishFestival.com or facebook.com/NJIrishFestival.
Ilana Keller is an award-winning journalist and lifelong New Jersey resident who loves Broadway and really bad puns. She highlights arts advocacy and education, theater fundraisers and more through her column, “Sightlines.” Reach out on Twitter: @ilanakeller; email@example.com