The Great Irish Fair Goes Virtual

Chief Brehon Brian McCabe


By Irish Echo Staff

The Irish American Building Society has announced that it will virtually host its 39th Annual Great Irish Fair tomorrow, Saturday, September 19.

The fair will be live streamed via The Great Irish Fair of New York’s Facebook Page and will start at 4 p.m. EST and continue to 8:05 p.m. EST.

Said a release from the society: "The Great Irish Fair is usually held in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York and attracts thousands of attendees.

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"Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s fair will be virtual. 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."

Continued the release: "The 39th Great Irish Fair was in danger of not happening due to Covid-19 concerns. This was not the first time that the fair was cancelled or in danger of not happening. Our fearless leader Marty Cottingham was determined to have a fair whether in person or online.

"Marty was instrumental in keeping the fair going after 2008 when the economy crashed. Marty once again is the driving force behind the 2020 Great Irish Fair."

Said Cottingham, who is the fair's chairman and also president of the IABS: “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 thank them for everything they have given to us.”

Continued the release: "During the pandemic, a group of Irish Americans in New York started a grass-roots campaign to raise funds to provide necessary supplies and funds to those who need it. The fundraiser for PPE was the Irish Meitheal spearheaded by our very own Chief Brehon, Brian McCabe.

"Their Facebook page is called Irish America in Support of Healthcare Workers. The Great Irish Fair contributed to this campaign and provided much needed PPE supplies to first responders. The Great Irish Fair also contributed by highlighting members of the Irish American community who are first responders on our Facebook page. We highlighted nurses, police officers, firefighters, and teachers, among others who have continued to go to work every day to help us navigate through these unprecedented times."

Stated Mary Glynn, Great Irish Fair Committee member and Vice President of the Irish American Building Society. "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.”

Stated the release: The 39th Annual Great Irish Fair will feature the legendary Andy Cooney and His Band, The Canny Brothers Band, The Narrowbacks, Susan and Gerard and the reunion of The Whole Shabang. We will also include Irish Dancers from The O’Malley Irish Dance Academy and the Buckley School of Dance. The Great Irish Fair will honor distinguished guests with awards reflective of the rich Irish traditions and the outstanding achievement of each individual.

Andy Cooney and his band have just released a new single “We’re All in This Together.” It is written and performed by Andy and his son Ryan. The song aims to bring comfort and hope through the pandemic, honoring those heroes who have sacrificed for everyone else.

The Great Irish Fair Committee said it was honored to have Brian McCabe as the fair's 2020 Chief Brehon, along with Grace Shramm as the 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 being awarded to Thomas Dolan.

The fair is partnering 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 website is

Said the fair organizers: "This year we are reaching out to our faithful supporters to help us keep the faith filled, cultural tradition alive.

"We could use all the support we can get and have started a fund to be a 'Friend of The Fair.' For a $25 donation we will give a special shoutout on our Facebook page. For $50 donation we will list your name on our Facebook page and website. For $100 donation we will mention your name or business on air during our virtual event as a 'Friend of the Fair.' Donations can be made at

"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.

"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. One hundred percent 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 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. More at

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