Reviving a community event to celebrate Celtic heritage

| 22 Feb 2012 | 04:52

Organizers seek to raise $10,000 to make Orange County Celtic Fleadh a reality, By Nancy Kriz MONROE - Two area residents have a vision to resurrect a countywide event celebrating Celtic heritage, but have only 10 weeks to make that a reality. Gail Edmonds, immediate past president of the Monroe-based Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and coordinator of its junior division, and Bill O’Donnell, an AOH member, treasurer of the Orange County AOH and treasurer of the AOH and financial secretary for the mid-Hudson St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, hope to finalize plans for the first Orange County Celtic Fleadh, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 17 and 18. But first, they need $10,000 in seed money to make that happen. And, there’s a deadline of April 30. “The current economic environment is brutal,” said Edmonds, who is co-chairing the planning with O’Donnell. “There has to be some cultural or educational grants out there. If only we could get our foot in the door.” O’Donnell and Edmonds have been working with elected officials and community representatives and remain hopeful of finding the funding to make the fleadh (pronounced “fla”) a reality. The fleadh (Celtic for “festival’) is intended to replace the former Irish Heritage festival, a popular county event held for 15 years. But three years ago, with a sour economy and no funding, the annual festival ceased being held. “We’re starting from scratch with a lot of goodwill and a lot of people who want to see this happen,” said O’Donnell. “But there’s no money.” Potential sites Now, O’Donnell and Edmonds - both Chester residents - are hopeful the luck of the Irish will be on their side and they can raise money they need to pay in order to secure the venue and book entertainment. They are looking at either Thomas Bull Memorial Park in Montgomery or Stewart Airport as the festival’s site. The airport’s hanger facilities would be the first choice because it’s more centrally located within the county with no worries about the weather. “We have all the entertainment lined up,” said Edmonds. “They’re available to us. We just need the money for deposits. We have set April 30 as our 'go or no go’ date because of all the things that we would need to do.” Edmonds said organizers are also looking to have a large cultural and educational focus as well, with a planned exhibit focusing on the “Great Irish Hunger,” also known as the “Great Irish Famine,” of the 1840s. Irish, Scottish and Welsh heritages But while Edmonds said about 40,000 county residents out of 350,000 population identify themselves as Irish, the proposed festival is intended to have an overall Celtic focus to appeal to those with Irish, Scottish and Welsh heritages. And it’s for that reason that O’Donnell hopes people will be interested in celebrating their heritage. “Everybody needs to know their history,” he said. “This is a way of remembering who you are and where you came from. It helps define who you are. History teaches lessons. Everything ties in.” He hoped those with a Celtic heritage would support the concept. “Send a buck and help let your children know where you came from and enjoy your heritage,” said O’Donnell. And, one or two corporate sponsors could make the difference, Edmonds felt. “That would allow us to revive it,” added Edmonds. “We know at this time of year, we’re competing with St. Patrick’s Day planning. But, if we get $10,000, it’s a green light. We’ll be able to make it happen.”

Everybody needs to know their history. This is a way of remembering who you are and where you came from. It helps define who you are. History teaches lessons. Everything ties in.” Bill O’Donnell

Join the Facebook connection
To learn more about the proposed Orange County Celtic Fleadh, visit:!/pages/Orange-County-Celtic-Fleadh/126363877428748

To send a contribution
Organizers need to raise $10,000 by April 30 in order to make the Orange County Celtic Fleadh a reality. To help support this effort, checks made payable to “Orange County Celtic Fleadh” can be sent to:
Orange County Fleadh
c/o The Monroe Irish Center
10 North Main St., Suite 2
Monroe, N.Y. 10950
For more information, email to: or call Gail Edmonds at 469-8377; or Bill O’Donnell at 917-453-3554.