Hooley in loose Irish slang means a party or celebration. On Kamm’s Corner in West Park, Ohio, everyone turned out to party.
The Hooley in Kamm’s Corner is a homecoming to current residents and those who grew up in this area of historic West Park to celebrate its resurgence and Irish roots. A recent street improvement to the area’s commercial strip called for a major street party and the organizers at Kamm’s Corner Development Corporation did it up big time! With sponsorship help from Cleveland Clinic’s famed Fairview General Hospital, the streetscape became the place to be the second weekend in May.
West Park, Ohio is a ’city-suburb’ of Cleveland with middle to upper-middle class homes and excellent private Catholic schools where at least 90% or better of its high school graduates make it into colleges. it’s a friendly neighborhood that border’s Cleveland Metropark’s Rocky River Reservation and in its early days featured farms and a horse-racing track to car racing with such personalities like Ransom Olds and cars like the Cleveland-made Winton automobile.
The city of Cleveland blocked off Lorain Avenue at 6:30 on the morning of Saturday, May 12th between Rocky River Drive and West 165th Street for the official noontime start allowing portable stages to be set up at both ends of the strip. Tents from vendors were then hoisted where goods were sold along with the usual fair gourmet items. Local restaurants set up tents in front of their businesses or readied their outdoor patios for the busy day ahead. The party ran from noon until a little after eight in the evening.
Opening ceremonies kicked-off at 12-noon with a speech by Ward 19 Councilman, Marty Keane and other dignitaries followed by a musical performance by The Cleveland Police Pipes & Drums. On the western stage, the group called ’Cats On Holiday’ turned-up the volume with their powerful JBL sound system rocking the area with their hard-driving swamp rock with a mixture of country, Cajun and blues. Music-masters Jeffrey Bowen, Rick Chistyson, Denis Devito, Steve Hudock and Kevin Price had the party-goers dancing in the street.
Other performers included CRAIC, Mary’s Lane with a Celtic sound and Sumrada. The Cleveland Firefighters Memorial Pipes & Drums orchestration took the breath away of many of the spectators in attendance. On the eastern stage, the audience were treated to traditional Irish dance performances by Cannon Irish Dance, Burke School of Irish Dance, Lenegham Academy of Irish Dance, Brady Campbell Irish Dance School as well circus performances by the St. Ignatius Circus Company and the Newton D. Baker School of the Arts. On the street-side, children were entertained by DJ McNab with Magician, John Flower entertaining the enchanted youth. The Cleveland Police Mounted Patrolman’s Unit kept the area safe and many people were allowed to pet the very friendly horses they rode.
There were pony rides and a petting zoo along with a large inflatable fire truck slide and a ’bounce-house’ to entertain the kids. Food vendors included West Park Station, Back Stage Bar with a live ESPN sports radio broadcast and offerings by Kamm’s Corner Farmers Market along with famed Weber’s Premium Custard & Ice Cream and PJ McIntyre’s to name a few. Carol & John’s Comic Book Shop from nearby Kamm’s Plaza set up a stall with choice comic books for the kiddies and young-at-heart.
Caricature Artist Adam Pate sat in the corner of one of the booths drawing patrons at no cost to those who stopped by and participated - those who were lucky enough to have him draw their images felt like Hollywood royalty once they viewed Adam’s professional creations. Even this writer had a portrait done with his photographic aide and friend, Alice Jones-Crawford.
Then there were the service booths setting up shop like Cleveland Hopkins International Airport providing arts and crafts activities for the children, and Rae-Ann’s Nursing where visitors were greeted by Pat in admissions and fellow co-workers handing out bottled water. Keller Williams Reality was on hand for those looking to buy homes in the area. Even the West Park YMCA and Kiwanis were there.
Weather cooperated with partly cloudy blue skies and temperatures in the seventies to a background of sunshine. People milled among the two stages at each end and the tents in-between hugging friends they met and parents and children participating in the activities offered to the participants. It was a nice family day to celebrate living and remembering special moments in West Park as well the homecoming at the resurgence of historical Kamm’s Corner’s!