The stage line-up for “The Homecoming” on June 22, one of the major celebratory dates of the JFK50, features some of County Wexford’s best known citizens.
Taking the role of compere for the afternoon will be proud Wexford ambassador Anne Doyle, the journalist, presenter and former RTE newsreader. She will take to the stage on New Ross Quayside and welcome visitors to Wexford as well as introduce the formidable line-up, including critically acclaimed award winning author and Wexford ambassador, Colm Toibin. Anne will be assisted by George Hook, well-known broadcaster, TV critic and John F Kennedy fan.
International singer and Wexford ambassador Michael Londra, who was voted the best Tenor at the 2012 Irish Music Awards and is currently wowing audiences with his tour across the U.S., will perform a song he has written especially for the event with Grammy award winning songwriter Marcus Hummon.
Commenting on his attendance and upcoming performance, Londra said, “I was born a few years after JFK visited but my earliest memories of Wexford are that no matter where I went, in every house, there was a picture of him on every parlor wall, usually with Bobby and Pope John 23rd. All I knew, as a kid was that he was American and I wanted to go there. He has always represented the American Dream and I have lived that dream so I felt I had to write about it. The song I’ve written for the event ends with four lines from his favorite Irish song, ‘The Boys of Wexford’.”
World-renowned dancer, musician and performer Michael Flatley, who has family ties in St. Mullins ten miles upstream from New Ross, will take to the stage to narrate the journey and significance of the Emigrant Flame before its symbolic lighting on the quayside, evoking the spirit and inspiration of the Kennedys and the entire Irish emigrant family.
American Grammy award winning singer and songwriter Judy Collins, one of the great icons of American music, will also entertain visitors from the stage with some wonderful pieces from her vast songbook. Ms. Collins performed for President Kennedy at the White House ‘Dinner with the President’ event. She also performed at President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
Extreme Rhythm, the most highty acclaimed percussion group in Europe, led by Wexford Town man Nicky Bailey, will also perform in honour of JFK and the Kennedy Family.
World pipe band champions, New Ross and District Pipe Band will also entertain the special guests and viewing public.
Commenting at the launch event, Chair of the JFK50 Cllr Michael Sheehan said, “We are delighted to launch the line-up for the ‘The Homecoming’ on June 22 and thanks to all the people who are giving their time and effort to make this so special. Like the whole year, it is an event to remember the past and celebrate the future. This is your chance to be part of history and celebrate with some of Wexford's best who are joining us for this momentous occasion. We hope that people from near and far will come along and enjoy the festivities and the celebrations in memory of President Kennedy. It is now time to ask not what your County can do for you but what you can do for your County."
Visitors are invited to join the town in ‘The Homecoming’ celebrations from 3pm as an all American style Homecoming parade will weave its way through the streets of New Ross, finishing at the Quayside at 5pm. The Parade finish will be closely followed by the arrival of An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. with a guard of honour from the Irish Naval Service.
The official ceremony of the lighting of the Emigrant Flame will then begin. An Taoiseach and guests of honour Caroline Kennedy and Jean Kennedy Smith will take part in the lighting of the flame. It is expected that many members of the extended Kennedy family will also be in attendance. The torch will be taken ashore from the LE Orla Naval vessel and brought to the Kennedy Monument on the New Ross Quayside. Following the stage performances the torch will be transferred along the boardwalk to the Emigrant Memorial and there the Emigrant Flame will be set alight on the Quayside to burn forever brightly to remember all Irish emigrants.
Closing speeches from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. and members of the Kennedy family will draw the events to a close.
Town Manager Eamonn Hore, who is coordinating the major civil works on the New Ross Quay, including the Emigrant Flame and Gathering Torch development, said, “This is a wonderful time for New Ross, a time to remember the past and to look forward to a bright future. June 22nd will be wonderful occasion for all involved.”
Earlier in the day An Taoiseach will have officially opened the re-developed Kennedy Homestead, and planted a tree at the soon to be re-named John F Kennedy Memorial Park.
Sean Reidy, CEO of the JFK Trust who will be taking over the operational management of the Kennedy Homestead, said, “We are very much looking forward to the events of June 22 and indeed opening the re-developed Homestead. Work is progressing apace by the OPW in Dunganstown at the moment, and the new tour displays will be fantastic.”
For visitors unable to attend the celebratory events on June 22, a brand new Emigrant Trail telling the Kennedy story will be on offer, allowing visitors to follow in the footsteps of President Kennedy’s historic visit of 1963. ‘The Emigrant Trail’ features three key heritage sites on a 15-mile trail in the vicinity of New Ross Town in county Wexford.
For further details on all of the events taking place throughout the year for the JFK50 see www.jfk50ireland.com.