The folks at the Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center (also known as the Irish Center) want you to get to know what a singular contribution the venerable institution makes to the Philadelphia Irish community and to the surrounding neighborhood of Mount Airy—and what better time than at the beginning of the Christmas holiday season.
The Center will host its first Christmas Tree Lighting and Open House December 1 from 12 noon to 6 p.m. You can find the Center at 6815 Emlen Street in Mount Airy. Best of all, it’s free, although donations will be accepted.
“There will be something going on in every room of the Center,” says board member and vice president Lisa Maloney. “In the Fireside Room, there will be Irish music from noon ‘til 6. We have a number of Irish musicians already confirmed. From there you move into the Barry Room, where we’re hosting a Christmas market. We have about 12 or 13 vendors already confirmed. Bette Conway will have jewelry, and there will also be antique jewelry, and handmade candles made by Maureen Barry Connor. Bewley’s Tea will be there with tea and jam and other yummy treats.
“Nicole Harper Design is going to bring Christmas wreaths and ornaments. JT Apparel will have Irish apparel and is going to bring Irish sweatshirts and T-shirts and things like that. The Irish Center will also be selling T-shirts and tickets to the Dublin City Ramblers, who are coming in March, and they make very good stocking stuffers or Christmas gifts.”
The Center’s spacious ballroom is going to be offering quite the playground for children, with a bouncy castle, arts and crafts, games, a children’s reading area, gingerbread decorating and Christmas movies. Plenty for kids to do while their parents listen to music or browse the market. Other activities are in the offing.
But there’s more, says Maloney. There will be Christmas trees in the ballroom, and also booths where local Irish organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians—and some not so Irish, like the Contra dancers who make the Center their home, along with local Mount Airy groups—will provide information about their activities. John Shields and his dancers will also be on hand.
Light food and snacks will also be available for purchase.
The entire Center will be decked out in welcoming Christmas decorations, and the tree lighting will take place in the ballroom around 3:30.
The open house is intended to inform nearby neighbors about all the cultural activities that now take place at the Center—but also provide an infusion of new blood into the Irish Center.
“From 2014, we changed gears on the Irish Center’s mission, moving from a sort of social club to an arts and cultural atmosphere, with an emphasis on Irish arts and culture, but also supporting the diverse neighborhood,” says Maloney. “We really want to welcome our neighbors and have them come in and see the Irish Center and what is on offer and making sure that people see the Irish community and its various contributions.”
The plan for the open house came from the Center’s board, which is on the lookout for new ideas that will pique interest in its activities.
“And hopefully,” Maloney says, “when they come to the open house, they’ll want to come back and feel like it’s a comfortable place, home to a lot of what the Irish do, and they’ll be open to events that they see there. They’ll say, ‘I know that place. It’s warm, it’s welcoming—let’s go back.’”