Camden Catholic Gets Jersey’s Irish Jumping

Mike O'Callaghan, banging the drum loudly.

Mike O'Callaghan, banging the drum loudly.

For the longest time, Jacob Griess was the only one on the dance floor. But he’s a toddler, and toddlers have no inhibitions.

But then Blackthorn took to the stage at the first Camden Catholic Irish Festival, and Jacob soon had plenty of company.

It was billed as a HUGE (all caps) Irish Festival, and,with more than 400 South Jersey Irish on hand, the description was apt.

Like most Irish festivals, it featured performances by Irish dancers and pipers, booths stocked with Irish hoodies and hats and such, and big steaming plates of ham and cabbage.

Of course, the big draw was Blackthorn. And even though it was a litle chilly in the big tent out behind the gym, the band soon hotted things up.

It was all music to the ears of Dennis “Archie” Archible, president of the school alumni association, class of ’74.

“This is going to be an annual event,” he said. “We have over 400 here today. We’re hoping to grow to over 1,000.”

Most if the revelers at Camden Catholic on Saturday are alumni, Archible said. A number of alumni also donated to the cause, he added, including beer and food. “It’s nice,” he said, “when it’s home-grown.”

The festival came together pretty quickly. Archible said it was first discussed following the school’s 120th anniversary in October. But the basic idea for the festival, he said, “has been inside my head for a long time.”

Proceeds of the event will help pay for bleachers and for improvements to the football field. As with most Catholic schools, tuition does not pay all of the school’s bills. Archible had no doubt that his fellow alumni would rise to the challenge. “We’re the oldest Catholic high school in South Jersey,” he said, “and the tradition is tremendous.”

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