Cleveland’s Outdoor Festival Season Kicks Off with the Hooley at Kamm’s Corners

Photo by of Joe Outlaw

Sat 5/13 @ noon-8PM

Referring to the  Hooley as a lively gathering is like calling the closing time line at the Cleveland Gateway Panini’s Bar and Grill a reserved get-together among friends.

Still, the definition of  “Hooley” is Irish slang for party or celebration, and hands down West Park’s annual day-long block party — Sat May 13 @ noon-8pm at Kamm’s Corners (Lorain Avenue from West 165th to Rocky River Drive) — will live up to that billing as it kicks off the spring and summer outdoor festival.

After last year’s affair was washed about by Mother Nature, organizers are optimistic 2017’s Hooley will be a success with live music across two stages, dancing, pipes, drums, crafts and plenty of family fun.

CooCleveland talked to Kamm’s Corners Development Corporation executive director Steve Lorenz about The Hooley.

How many years has the Hooley been a springtime festival of fun?

This is the 8th annual event. I can’t believe it’s been that long. That’s incredible to me. This year it’s pretty much the same layout we’ve had in previous years. We’ve got kind of the rock ’n’ roll musical stage on Rocky River Drive and Lorain Avenue, and the family stage on W. 165th Street. One of the cool things is that we’ve got Tie Dye Harvest doing a reunion show. They’re going to play all of the classic rock stuff they used to do, with some originals. That’s exciting for me. They were my wedding band back in 1989 in the old Lakewood Armory, which has been torn down for many years. I hope everybody else likes it. And then we also have the Sunrise Jones, who do all kinds of classic rock stuff going back to the ’60s all the way to the ’90s. And at one point they were voted the best cover band in Cleveland.

Do you view the Hooley as a music festival?

It’s certainly partly a music festival, yeah. Maybe it’s just because I’m such a big music fan. And I do the booking of all the acts on the stage, so that’s kind of where my own focus is, but it’s really more of a family festival overall. I mean, we have a huge family area down towards W. 165th Street with the Celtic dancers, karate demonstrations and things of that nature. They are more family-oriented with bounce houses. This year we have an inflatable obstacle course both adults and kids can enjoy. That should be pretty cool.

Let’s go back for a second. Why are you surprised that event is still going strong eight years later?

I guess for me this started because we had a really crappy-looking street more than 10 years ago. All of the sidewalks were busted up, we had wires all over the place, old telephone poles and storefronts were kind of junky. Then the city came in and put $10 million into our streetscape. They built all new sidewalks, buried all of the power lines and put up historic lighting. The development corporation had a pretty fair amount to do with the planning process. The city did the work, but we did planning on it with some consultants. What really jumpstarted the Hooley and made it happen, it was kind of a celebration of the rejuvenation of Kamm’s Corners by virtue of that new streetscape. That’s what brought forth West Park Station and P.J. McIntyre’s Irish Pub and all of those people who also invested in the area. So that’s when really the neighborhood started clamoring for a celebration, kind of our coming out party.

What’s unique about the Hooley is unlike other similar-minded events held throughout Northeast Ohio all spring and summer long where fundraiser beer gardens are open until late in the night, the Kamm’s Corner event closes shop in the early evening.

There’s not alcohol allowed on the streets. We kept it that way on purpose. We could throw a beer garden in the middle of the street and make a whole bunch of money if we chose to, but we decided to keep it more family-oriented. What we see a lot of times is people bring their kids up at noon and hang around for a few hours and then take the kids home, leave them with a babysitter and walk back up for a while. It kind of has that dual mode to it — earlier in the day it’s very much a family type of festival and in the evening, it gets more toward a party.

Something else about the Hooley is even though its name has an Irish derivation, it’s not strictly a Celtic festival.

I agree it does have an Irish bent to it. We do have three Irish dance schools, different types of drum bands and usually a couple of the acts on stage. Brigid’s Cross this year is certainly Celtic. So we do have a bent towards that but it’s not an Irish festival. If you go to the family stage, you’ll see all kinds of ethnic acts in addition to the Irish dancers. We’ve also got an artist alley where there are I think 14 artists on the street this year. Most of them have nothing to do with being Irish. There’s a little bit of Irish food on the street, but we’ve also got new culinary offerings Hatfield’s Goode Grub, the Hub, and Bomba Tacos.

Hmm, perhaps the idea of having Tie Dye Harvest reunite was your way of having them ready to play your 30th Wedding Anniversary party”

(laughs) There you go. Maybe so. That’s a good idea.

 

 

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