The 39th Great Irish Fair, hosted by the Irish American Building Society, will be hosted online this year featuring great Irish music and Irish dance acts!

The Great Irish Fair, which usually attracts thousands of attendees to Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York every year, is shifting to an online, virtual event this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Viewers from around the world will be able to tune in to the 39th Great Irish Fair online via The Great Irish Fair Facebook page and IrishCentral's Facebook page on Saturday, September 19 from 4 pm EST.

The Irish American Building Society (IABS), the organizers of the massive annual event, said: “We feel that the show must go on to keep the tradition alive. Even though we are moving forward with a virtual platform we will still have the spirit and traditions of Great Irish Fairs of the past. This gives us an opportunity to showcase great Irish music, Irish dance, and this year’s honorees, to a wider audience. 

“We are excited to reach out to a wider audience and to reconnect with past fair attendees who have moved beyond the New York Metropolitan area and attract new supporters from across the nation and around the world. This year’s event will be free to tune in and is produced by Emmy Award winner Kieran McGirl.”

Organizers noted that the 39th Great Irish Fair was in danger of not happening at all due to COVID-19 concerns, but Marty Cottingham, chairman of the Great Irish Fair and President of the IABS, was determined to hold the gathering, either in person or online.

Cottingham said: “Now it’s more important than ever to bring people together. To also be able to give back to the families of first responders, who have sacrificed so much especially, over these past months, is our small way of being able to thank them for everything they have given to us.”

A central theme to the 39th Great Irish Fair is honoring the brave Irish and Irish American frontline workers who helped navigated their communities throughout the pandemic. The Great Irish Fair's Cheif Brehon Brian McCabe spearheaded the Irish Meitheal campaign, which the Great Irish Fair was happy to support, while frontline workers have been highlighted and celebrated on the Great Irish Fair's Facebook page.

Mary Glynn, a Great Irish Fair committee member and Vice President of the IABS, said: "The Great Irish Fair Committee members felt that it was important to go forward with a virtual fair and to highlight our first responders. We were determined to keep the traditions of the Great Irish Fair alive with the great bands and the Irish Dancers that we all love and our well-deserved honorees.” 

Among the featured performers for this year's event are the legendary Andy Cooney and His Band, The Canny Brothers Band, The Narrowbacks, Susan and Gerard, and the reunion of The Whole Shabang. It will also include Irish Dancers from The O’Malley Irish Dance Academy and the Buckley School of Dance.

The Narrowbacks performing at The Great Irish Fair.

The Narrowbacks performing at The Great Irish Fair.

Maureen O'Malley Byrnes, director of the O'Malley School of Irish Dance, committee member for the Great Irish Fair, and Executive Director of the IABS, said: “Having grown up dancing at the Irish Fair every year, and looking forward to the event as an adult, I am proud to be able to be a part of it with my own dancers today. I am grateful to the people like Marty Cottingham who has helped carry on the tradition. The event is a celebration of our heritage and our faith, so important today!

"I want my own children and those I teach, growing up knowing the music, experiencing the culture, and keeping it alive for generations to come. The fact that the money raised goes to support amazing charities like Futures in Education and our Catholic Schools is even more important!” 

Irish dancers at The Great Irish Fair

Irish dancers at The Great Irish Fair

The Great Irish Fair will honor distinguished guests with awards reflective of the rich Irish traditions and the outstanding achievement of each individual.

The Great Irish Fair Committee is honored to have Brian McCabe as its 2020 Chief Brehon, along with Grace Shramm as Colleen Queen, and Debbie Duggan as the Kathleen Slattery Woman of the Year. The Honorable Peter Kelly has been awarded the St. Thomas More Award, and the Captain Timothy Stackpole Memorial Award is awarded to Thomas Dolan.

Many people are working all year round to make sure that the Great Irish Fair is a success. The Great Irish Fair Committee Members are Martin Cottingham, Mary Glynn, Maureen O’Malley Byrnes, Brendan Gallagher, Carolyn Conroy, Gerard Keogh, Margaret Keavney,  Sheila McGirl, Thomas Flood, Kevin Conlon, Brian Leary, Gerard McCabe, Daniel Woods, and Kieran McGirl.

This year, organizers are reaching out to their faithful supporters to help keep the faith-filled, cultural tradition alive through their "Friend of The Fair" donation campaign:

  • For a $25 donation, you'll receive a special shoutout on the Great Irish Fair Facebook page
  • For $50 donation, you name will be listed on the Great Irish Fair Facebook page and website 
  • For $100 donation, your name or business will be mentioned on-air during our virtual event as a “Friend of the Fair.”

All donations, which are greatly appreciated, can be made online here through the IABS. In partnership with other sponsors, the Great Irish Fair is underwritten and organized by the Irish American Building Society Charities, Inc. (IABSC) whose mission is to carry on the great Irish American tradition of giving. 100% of all net proceeds derived from the GIF will be donated to Futures in Education, a charitable fund for the benefit of Brooklyn and Queens Diocesan Catholic Elementary Schools.

The Irish American Building Society (IABS) is an organization dedicated to developing and fostering business, cultural, educational, and charitable activities for its members. IABS strives towards a setting that promotes friendship, encourages cooperation and mutual development on both a personal and professional level, and fosters education through our scholarship program. For more information, please visit www.iabsny.com 

The Great Irish Fair is also happy to announce its partnership with Ireland XO/Reaching Out, a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to connecting people of Irish descent to their personal history and connections in Ireland. Their membership is free to its 115,000-membership base. They, while funded by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, try to do a local level connection base for the Diaspora. They put people in touch with someone from their town or county of origin who might be able to share some of their history with them on a personal level.  

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