Friday, March 18, 2011

Hooley Fest after 12 Years

Event began 12 years ago in Rancho San Diego and added second venue in 2010. Majority owner started St. Pat’s party as fundraiser in tribute to his late brother Scott. In its second year at Grossmont Center, the St. Patrick’s Day music-and-beer blowout called Hooley Fest attracted every kind of green shirt, hat, eye wear and accessory—and 1,500 paying customers in a fenced parking lot.
Wearing a brown T-shirt and dark HooleyFest jacket was a beaming Craig MacDonald, soaking up the relaxed but high-energy atmosphere. McDonald belonged as much as anyone.  He owns the joint. The majority owner and managing partner of Hooley’s Irish Pub and Grill, MacDonald—who is Irish—oversaw the event here as well as at a Rancho San Diego location, where HooleyFest debuted 12 years ago. The first HooleyFest had a somber genesis—as a fundraiser for a YMCA ball field in tribute to Craig’s brother Scott, who died of brain cancer in 1983 at age 24. Scott had coached girls softball. After eight years of HooleyFest's in Rancho San Diego, enough money was raised to build the Scott MacDonald Memorial Ballpark at the McGrath Family YMCA, MacDonald said. Meanwhile, the St. Patrick’s Day celebration of beer and Irish music had taken on a life of its own—adding Sycuan as a sponsor and growing to 5,000 attendees, and out of hand.
MacDonald, 48, said he scaled back the event in recent years, making it “more manageable.”He holds the holiday music fest, he said, because the “public demands it.” “We’re really glad when it’s over—really,” he said Thursday night. A resident of Mount Helix, MacDonald got help from his 100 employees—50 at each location.  Jim MacDonald, his 79-year-old father, also pitched in, he said. Much beer was poured (and other mixed drinks), and traditional fare served as $12 dinners. But ask MacDonald his favorite brew, and his instant answer: Guinness Draft. He’s especially proud of his bar being a “certified Guinness pub”—meaning his pouring equipment meets specifications and chemistry standards.
Co-owner Scott Schwartz (along with Mark Manning) wore a Hawaiian shirt with a hint of green Thursday night and said: “Everything I get [in feedback] is just positive. People love it. It’s nice to have an event when the community can get together in a large format.”
MacDonald said 1,500 square feet of the southern Grossmont Center parking lot was fenced off for HooleyFest, and remarked that the mall “loves the event.” So does SureRide Inc.—a San Diego minibus service that MacDonald hired.  Revelers who have too much liquid refreshment get free rides home, he said. Last year, 250 people availed themselves of the “limo-buses” with GPS capability and room for 20 passengers each—being taken either to a nearby trolley station or straight home. The six buses also were used to shuttle St. Paddy’s Day celebrants between the two HooleyFest's. The event began at 5 p.m. and ended at midnight, and then Hooley’s crew went to work. “We have to clean up the entire place and be ready to open at 10 o’clock [Friday morning],” MacDonald said. Should we all go and help clean up the mess we made ?
Sharon and I went last night and I know I had a great time but I'm sure it was the company that I went with that made it such a great time. Let all the Hooligans party and to think its only Friday.

1 comment:

  1. To read the original story, with dozens of photos and a 3-minute video, go to: