NORTH WILDWOOD — There’s green, and then there’s unofficial second-St-Patrick’s-Day-festival green on display at the Irish Fall Festival.
That vibrant Kelly green was on just about everything Saturday afternoon in North Wildwood, as the city welcomed about 15,000 people to celebrate their Irish heritage — real or imagined.
The Irish Fall Festival continues through today, with a Catholic Mass and parade scheduled.
Some in the crowd also wore England-baiting shirts to reflect the long-standing rivalry with their nearby neighbors. “The Titanic — built by Irishmen, sunk by an Englishman,” stated one, while another sported a picture of recently deceased British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, with pound coins on her eyes. On the back stated, “Iron Lady? Rust in Peace.”
For 22 years, the festival has been a major post-summer draw for the small town.
The festival stretched along Olde New Jersey Avenue from First to Pine avenues. Vendors packed into the center of the street selling everything from bar towels and tweed vests to official Guinness-themed baseball jerseys.
Food stands also didn’t strictly adhere to the Irish line, selling po’boys and beignets as well as roasted corn and pizza.
Sean Fantazzi stood behind one of the stands in a kilt.
The Philadelphia police officer represented the Philadelphia Police & Fire Pipes & Drums band. The 66-person group of public safety workers from both departments makes up the city’s Highland bagpipes and drum outfit.
The group played Thursday afternoon in Wildwood, the fifth or sixth time they have been there.
“It’s a great time — a positive attitude, positive vibe,” Fantazzi said.
His stand sold CDs of the band as well as an array of flat caps, T-shirts and other trinkets with its logo.
Dan Maguire, 31, flew all the way from Spokane, Wash., to join the party. For him, his sister Maria Simone, 36, and her husband Ryan Simone, 34, it’s a chance to have fun — and see family.
“We love it,” said Maria Simone, who added that they have been coming for years.
The Haddonfield, Camden County, resident said they stay with an uncle and aunt who have a house in the city, visiting and going out, year after year.
She explained the draw: “Just random, you know, bagpipers come into a bar, dancers dancing in the middle of the street.”
Added Maguire, “It’s like two St. Patrick’s Days. It’s the best holiday celebrated twice.”
“It’s like a mini family reunion,” Maria Simone said. “The irony is, a lot of our Italian relatives come down.”
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