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Friday, March 18, 2011

A Grand Green Gala at the Gaelic Club

A Grand Green Gala 
at the Gaelic Club:
Full house enjoys music, dancing, corned beef and more
(Posted to 3/17)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – They were all there. The established senior members huddled in groups. Work mates raising a pint. Young families circled around tables. Freckled youngsters leaping about. Some wore crazy hats, others provocative buttons and necklaces, but all had a common purpose: to celebrate the fun-filled occasion that is St. Patrick’s Day.

The host site for all was the Gaelic American Club on Beach Road, which had rolled out the green carpet to welcome the masses for a full day of activities.

Enjoying the bright sun and blue skies of the early afternoon just outside the Club’s entry, GAC staff volunteer Linda McCormack recounted the morning’s activities.

“We started the day at 10 with a raising of the Irish and American flags by our front entrance,” she began. “The flags were lowered to half mast, as all state flags were, in tribute to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daehan Park from Watertown, who was just killed in Afghanistan. First Selectman Flatto and several other town dignitaries said a few words, then long-time Club member Mary Ellen Lyons sang beautiful renditions of both the American and Irish anthems.”

Sitting beside McCormack, former GAC vice president Jim Fahey continued with relating activities.

“The morning ceremonies were followed by a broadcast from Ireland of the National Club games in both hurling and football,” said Fahey. “People who come from those parishes really look forward to that. It’s comparable to football and baseball here. We enjoyed the games with homemade soda bread and scones served by the ladies of the Club.”

Joining the pair was another former GAC VP, Charlie Vaughn, who characterized the midday crowd.

“It’s very family oriented at this time, with music all afternoon, rotating bands and dance exhibitions from several groups,” he said. “Then, in the evening, GAC’s own bagpipe band comes on to give a brief serenade.”

A GAC member for over 30 years, Joe Blackall spoke about the meaning of the festivities to him. “It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate, particularly at my age, and we’ve got a glorious day. I just watched the New York parade on TV, which is a great event.”

Peggy Corcoran, the niece of the Club’s first president, Jimmy Corcoran, whose portrait hangs inside the front entrance, summed up her own feelings. “This is like coming home,” she said. “I really grew up with the Club and made so many friends from childhood on. We all step danced together as children. I can still do it, but would need to limber up a little first.”

In the Club’s expansive Carolan Room, a full house enjoyed corned beef sandwiches and the lilting tunes of the Shamrogues. Decked out in a sun hat peppered with shamrocks, Trumbull resident Kate Farrell said, “We just went to the parade in Bridgeport. It was excellent, a fun time. The sun couldn’t shine better for the Irish.”

Other afternoon entertainers included Colleen and the Boys, who performed in the bar area. There, GAC manager Maura O’Donnell scurried about overseeing the room.

“It’s a great day with music, dancers and food… a full house, fun time!” she said, breathlessly summing things up.

Standing nearby were members of the Manchester Regional Police and Fire Pipe Band, dressed in their kilts and adornments. One of the group’s members, Steven Moore, said they had just come from marching in the Bridgeport parade and that it was fun to be at the Club.

At an adjacent table seated with friends, Sandye Mann, who was sporting an orange and white wig and green beer mug-shaped goggles, said, “I had my corned beef and am loving the camaraderie and fellow Club members. It doesn’t matter if you’re Irish or not. Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!”

Arguably having the best time at the Club were the children who ran about or sat enjoying food in the grassy courtyard behind the facility. This included Tommy Nelson, 8, and his brother Sean, 11, from Milford, who were munching on chicken tenders.

Squinting against the sun, little Tommy said brightly, “Today is the greatest day ever … and we didn’t even have to go to school!”

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