(UPDATE: This event has been cancelled by the City of Hoboken due to inclement weather. Stay tuned to hMAG.com for any further information.)
This year’s Hoboken Irish Festival on the waterfront in Sinatra Park will have food, drink, sport, dancing and music—as it has had for the past few years.
However, this year’s event will take on a slightly more poignant role, as the Hoboken community comes to terms with an incident of bigotry directed at immigrants.
You see, the Irish—who once dominated the Hoboken social landscape—were immigrants, too.
“The disturbing ‘hate speech’ story we have read about provides another important reminder of why this weekend’s Hoboken Irish Festival, now the sixth annual, is so important,” says Steve Lenox, President of Irish Network New Jersey, proud co-hosts of the City of Hoboken‘s Irish Cultural Festival. “Those of us that wear our ‘Irishness’ on our sleeve, or keep it in our hearts, remember that it wasn’t that long ago that ‘Irish Need Not Apply’ was the prevailing sentiment. We also know that when the White House talks about the potential for mass deportations, or efforts to build walls to keep immigrants out, it is, in many instances, our own family members that are also effected.”
Last weekend, video surfaced on social media showing a local merchant cursing at several individuals in a dispute over a parking spot, using racially charged language and imploring the individuals to, “go back to your own country.” He also repeated vulgar statements about immigrant throughout the confrontation.
Hoboken Police are currently investigating the incident, while local politicians have called for action against the offending individual.
Hoboken City Councilmen Ravinder Bhalla and Ruben Ramos, Jr. issued a joint statement, saying, “As proud sons of immigrants, we write to express our complete disgust with the hate incident involving the owner of the Vape Van vendor truck in Hoboken, New Jersey. This conduct has no place in Hoboken. This individual’s actions do not reflect the views of businesses or residents in Hoboken. Hoboken is a city of immigrants and we take great pride in this tradition.”
“While I’ll gladly be the first to celebrate and defend anyone’s freedoms of speech, there is no room for the sort of venom that was spewed by this vile character,” says Lenox, of the incident last weekend. “And, while racism and hatred are certainly nothing knew, it seems we live at a time when people are much more comfortable sharing their contempt for others.”
Hoboken has been a destination for various immigrant groups throughout its evolution. In its current incarnation, Hoboken is a passionately cosmopolitan city hosting a wide variety of cultures within its one square mile—including many direct Irish immigrants.
“Honestly, it really doesn’t matter where you put us, we’ll always get on grand,” said Dublin-born Louise Barry, in a 2015 article for hMAG. “Most people will have some Irish heritage. We’re a relatively tiny country but we do like to spread ourselves around. Hoboken makes it especially easy though. The people are lovely and it makes me laugh that I’m known as ‘the Irish one’ in some establishments.”
As the unease among immigrant groups throughout our nation only grows daily, the organizers of this year’s Hoboken Irish Festival see the importance of acknowledging the journey many of us or our forebearers took to arrive in this place we now call home.
“This Saturday I look forward to celebrating the great culture, through food, music, dance and sport, of the Irish,” says Lenox. “It is family-focused and culturally appropriate celebrations like this one that have helped give rise to a popularity and love for the Irish. It is also just one of the many supported by the City of Hoboken that shows that diversity is indeed a strength.”
The Hoboken Irish Festival takes place this Saturday, May 13th from 12-5 p.m. at Sinatra Park on Hoboken’s scenic waterfront. Events include live entertainment featuring Hoboken favorites Gold N’ Brown, as well as Rogue’s March, The McLean Avenue Band, Clan Suibhne and Colin Nisbet of the Hoboken Fire Department on Bagpipes. For the Irish dance enthusiasts, Garden Street Irish Step Dancers/Emerald Fire will be on hand, plus the Aherne Sheehan School of Irish Dance, the Kerri Smith Academy of Irish Dance and more.
Local Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) teams will be playing on the field adjacent to Sinatra Park, while a new soda bread contest winner is crowned once again. And of course, in the spirit of true authenticity, there will be a beer garden—presented by Finnegan’s Irish Pub.
“Irish Network New Jersey has been proud to be a co-host of this great event for the past five years, and to continue working to engage the “Global Irish” in meaningful way,” says Lenox. “I look forward to seeing many of you at Sinatra Park this weekend!”