WILKES-BARRE — It was a night for Irish men (and women) to get together to celebrate tradition.
The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick held its 72nd annual dinner Friday at Genetti’s Grand Ballroom. Close to 400 people joined in the festivities as Carl Banks, a former New York Giants player, was the keynote speaker.
“It brings everyone together,” said Brian Finnerty, president of the Friendly Sons, noting the dinner is also the biggest fundraiser for the group. The money raised at the dinner as well as at the summer golf tournament will support scholarships and charities within the Wyoming Valley.
Wearing a medal with a green ribbon, Finnerty walked into the dinner as president, but will walk out as past president, his year-long term ending at last night’s event. Men in the group go through certain jobs such as dinner chairman or ticket chairman, until they reach the president’s post.
Taking over for Finnerty was the dinner’s chairman, Brian Bradshaw. Bradshaw has been coming to the dinners for over 30 years; his first time was with his late father when he was in fourth grade.
Continuing the tradition, Bradshaw brought his son, Patrick, to the dinner for the first time. Dressed in a tux, the younger Bradshaw did the Pledge of Allegiance.
“We’re carrying on our heritage,” Brian said.
Tom McDonnell, an honorary vice president, comes out to celebrate being Irish.
“I’ve formed friendships (at the dinner),” he said. “It means a lot.”
As a first generation Irish-American, McDonell enjoys the “uniqueness” of the dinner.
“It’s important despite the political climate,” Finnerty said.
There were very few females at the dinner, but it’s not because they weren’t invited.
“We accept everyone,” Brian Bradshaw said. “We just come out to have a good time.”