With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, in Belfast they’re planning for the wearin’ of the green in July?
“Our first festival went so well, even though it was hot, we started planning for our second festival right afterwards,“ said Bill Heaney. Heaney is heading up the committee which is planning Irish fun and games and music for the 2nd Annual Belfast Irish Festival on the last weekend in July.
Heaney said Belfast wanted to cash in on the popularity of local festivals.
“All the towns around us have very successful local festivals and we decided that Belfast needed to have one, too. A lot of people agreed with us, because look, here it is only February and all these people (about 20) came out to help with the planning. We’ve involved the churches, the fire department, the Lions Club, library, local businesses and the school. Everyone is helping us plan this festival,” he said.
Historically, Belfast was established in 1824 as the town of Orrinsburgh from part of the town of Caneadea. The name was changed to Belfast in 1825 due to the large number of settlers in the area of Irish descent. Out of that heritage, the Belfast Irish Festival was born.
The two-day festival will include a town-wide community yard sale, a car cruise, horseshoe tournament, games including potato sack races and a potato hunt.
“Last year we hid 100 potatoes in the park and I think they were all found in a matter of 10 minutes,” said Heaney.
The festival will also include Irish music, Irish dancing, and an Irish-themed dinner at local restaurants.
“We have five restaurants which are going to have the Irish-themed dinner,” Heaney said.
History will also be a big part of the festival, from a tour of the notorious Genesee Valley Warehouse, where four murders have taken place over the years, to tours of the Boxing Hall of Fame, which is sponsoring numerous events during the weekend. The events include a Hall of Fame induction, sparring exhibition with middleweight boxer Jimmy Holmes, a dance workout with boxer Livingstone Bramble, a concert, golf tournament and the Allegany County’s Got Talent talent show competition.
There will also be a 5K run/walk Ramble in the Bramble which follows the route run by bare knuckle boxing champion John L. Sullivan when he trained in Belfast in 1889 under trainer William Muldoon. Muldoon will also be honored on Saturday during the weekend with a special U.S. Postal Cancellation.
“Probably the most popular event we had last year was the pet parade with all the pets dressed in Irish garb. We’re having that again,” Heaney said.
Along with all the other events there will be an antique tractor pull, vendors in the park and a chicken barbecue.
The biggest event this year, Heaney and company said they believe, will be the community yard sale.
“It should be very good, because there hasn’t been a community-wide yard sale in a number of years, if ever. It should attract people from all around who are looking for antiques and collectables,” Heaney said.
They are also talking about allowing residents of Oramel and Caneadea to be included in the map of yard sale sites.
The festival is still in the planning stages. Heaney said there will be additions and subtractions before the schedule of events is finalized, but one thing he is sure of, “There will be something for everyone before we’re through,” he said.