Patrick Jockel will spend a lot of time this week looking at weather maps, hoping the Irish Festival he has spent a good part of the year organizing at the Towne of Historic Smithville in Galloway Township on Saturday and Sunday will be blessed with good weather.

A successful festival means at least $20,000 will be raised to the help fund scholarships, area charities, a Little League team and groceries for struggling families in Cape May County.

"This is our biggest fund raiser," said Jockel, of Toms River, who is president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 2 of Cape May County, an Irish Catholic Fraternal Organization.

This will be the fifth year they have organized the event, and Jockel said each year it seems to grow. Jockel is anticipating about 25,000 people this year.

The division has about 75 members, but a core group organize the event, including Jamie Rachford, of Cape May, who handles entertainment, Robert Bergen, of Manahawkin, who runs the vendors, Mike Hagan, of Seaville, who gets advertising, and James Roche, of North Wildwood, who handles food. Kramer Beverage also sponsors the festival.

The festival includes a kids area with face painting, sand art and pony rides, plus step dance and pipe band competitiosn.

There will be Celtic items for sale, and about 24 non-profit groups are also expected to participate.

"It's a real family event," Jockel said. "And we also feel we have a responsibility to have a good festival for the vendors, so they want to keep coming back."

When they're not organizing the festival, the group stays active in Cape May County. Jockel said they work with St. Maximilian Kolbe parish in Marmora and the local Knights of Columbus to identify needy families, and this year helped about 20 families with groceries.

"We've got resources and can feed a family of four for a month for about $100," he said.

The group sponsors Little League and hockey teams in Upper Township, and also puts on a Celtic radio show on WCFA 101.5 in Cape May County that includes a scholarship-funded internship for two Wildwood Catholic students in memory of the late Eugene O'Brien of Lower Township who helped found the group almost a decade ago.

Harry Patterson, of Lower Township, said they offer the $500 scholarships for students who are interested in broadcasting careers, and the funds include doing an internship at the radio show. He's also hoping for a great turnout at the Irish Festival.

"I'de like to give out three scholarships next year," he said.

Contact Diane D'Amico:


If you go

The Smithville Irish Festival, 11 a.m. Oct. 12 and noon Oct. 13 at Towne of Historic Smithville, Galloway Township. Admission is free. For information, visit