My Boston buddy Sean Moynihan unjustly accuses me of branding whatever US city I have most recently hung my hat in as “the heart of Irish America”. “First it was Boston, then it was New York and, after just one 24-hour touchdown, Chicago,” he says. “Where next, Philadelpia?”
Well, funny that he should mention that because I am delighted to announce that to mark its 90th anniversary the Irish Echo will be teaming up with the prestigious Irish American Business Chamber and Network in the (newest) capital of Irish America to host the Irish Small Business 50 on 18 May.
A call has gone out to small businesses (more than five but less than 100 employees) to put their names forward for the awards which are being backed by the Small Business Development Center of New Jersey (don’t get me started about the great Irish of NJ) and Philadelphia marketing business MRP.
Before that we will have the Irish Community Champions Awards in New York on 27 April which will be addressed by Christine Quinn, CEO of homeless charity WIN and former Speaker of New York City Council. The Community Champions accolades go to the unsung heroes of Irish America who are making a difference at grassroots level and I have no doubt that exemplary fighter for justice Christine Quinn will inspire our honorees to even greater heights.
I plan to spend March close to home and join the SPAR Craic 10k run (below) on St Patrick’s Day morning but I take my hat off to Irish America and the myriad activities which mark the Patron Saint’s ‘season’. There are many highlights, notably Mayor De Blasio’s St Patrick’s Day breakfast in New York where guest of honor this year will be Gerry Adams, and the Presidential reception in the Teach Bán.
But for me, things got off to a perfect start on Saturday when the 118th St Patrick’s Dinner of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of Essex County, New Jersey, honoured former New Jersey state judge and current Belfast International Homecoming Chair the Hon. Francine Schott.
That sort of gesture could put a whole state in the running for the Soul of Irish America Award but ultimately there is, as Sean P Moynihan knows, only one city which is the beating heart of Irish America — and Boston will prove it this week when Mayor Marty Walsh designates Tuesday 6 March as Astral Weeks Day. The bar has been set very high.
In the 50 years, since the 22-year-old Van Morrison released the greatest rock album ever, critics have battled to come to terms with the brilliance of Astral Weeks but Bostonian Ryan Walsh has surpassed them all with his new book, ‘Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968′. Only in the heart of Irish America.
Beannachtaí na Féile – Early St Patrick’s Day greetings to all.