Irish Heritage Award

Upon the 25th Anniversary of the St. Patrick’s Irish Festival, St. Patrick’s Parish is proud to recognize the original creators of the “St. Patrick’s Parish Irish Festival and Street Fair”.  These lifelong volunteers and dedicated members of our Parish and School established the foundation of an extremely popular Tip Hill tradition that continues strong into its 25th year.  Our sincere appreciation and thanks to Rich & Rita Collins, Thomas and Karen Gaughan, Mary Sisson, John and Darlene Strodel and Don Henesey. 

So many may wonder – how did this endeavor originally begin? Back in 1991, St. Patrick’s School was beginning to feel the financial crunch that we are all too accustomed to nowadays.  All of the above had children attending or recently graduated from St. Patrick’s School.  Tom Gaughan was the current President of the School Board and others were on the Parish Council.  As many dedicated volunteers know, action had to be taken to bridge the financial gap.  As a result, secret backyard and kitchen meetings took place around the neighborhood.  Most credit Rich Collins for the original Festival concept and Don Henesey for developing the logistics; only after Mary Sisson’s insistence to attend a meeting. Finally, with guidance of St. Patrick and some blarney here and there, the idea of a Parish & School Irish Festival took hold.  Although the idea of an Irish Festival on Tipperary Hill now seems logical, the original creators were taking a big risk.  Many initial questions could not be answered and Monsignor Sammons demanded facts to prove success.  So throughout the autumn of 1991, research and hard work began so they could sell the concept to Monsignor Sammons and gain his approval.  Finally, in early 1992, John Strodel presented the concept to the Parish Council and the St. Patrick’s Irish Festival & Street Fair was approved 16-2. Monsignor Sammons did have several requirements: the Festival must be a true Parish and School event where all active Parish and School groups are supportive and active volunteers, the Festival must end at 11:00 pm each day and the central theme must encompass Church, School and Community.  The goal was for the Festival to become a symbol of the Irish community on Tipperary Hill.
The creators quickly engaged additional volunteers to develop 15 original committees including food, children’s games, crafters, logistics, electrical, games of chance, entertainment, advertising, financial and many more. They worked hard to develop activities for all members of the family.  To this day, the Irish Festival still uses the original bar, children’s games, gambling tables and the Moynhian accounting system.  Despite the hard work, the committees still faced uncertainty and risk.  No one could predict attendance or weather.  The first year, it was decided to charge a $7.00 entrance fee; however that plan was literally scrapped as the Festival began.  The first night was rainy, but in typical Irish fashion, the beer was flowing, the music played and dancing continued on and the beginning of the annual tradition was forged.  By Saturday, worries diminished as the Parish and Tip Hill community realized the party was on! 

As you might imagine, there are many more stories and tall tales to tell, so find one of these leaders at the 25th Annual Festival and sit down for a beer and a good story!   

Once again – a sincere thanks to the original creators and may Don Henesey look fondly down upon us!  Slainte and see you at the Festival!

Picture showing John & Darlene Strodel, Thomas & Karen Gaughan, and Mary Sisson.  
Missing are Rich & Rita Collins.  Deceased is Don Henesey.

Past recipients of the Award