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Cape Fear Hooley Under The Bridge: Everything you need to know

The annual Cape Fear Hooley Under The Bridge is a really fun Irish-themed festival with music, dancers, Irish beer, and more in downtown Wilmington, NC.

For more help planning your trip, check out all of our posts about Wilmington.

A pipe and drum band in front of Waterline Brewing Co. in Wilmington, NC with the words "Cape Fear Hooley Under The Bridge: Everything You Need To Know" digitally written on top.

Wilmington loves to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a huge St. Patrick’s Day parade that makes its way through downtown Wilmington.

Almost as big as the parade is the Cape Fear Hooley Under The Bridge, which is held annually at Waterline Brewing Co. the month before parade day. The Hooley acts as a fundraiser for Wilmington’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, but it has become such a large event, it’s its own major annual Irish event at this point.

There’s Irish music, Irish dancers, vendors selling Irish products, food trucks, and, of course, beer. 

The Hooley is independent of the parade afterparty, even though they are very similar festivals, held at the same Wilmington brewery. But, they’re different because they’re on a different days.

A street fair with the words "A Guide To Festivals In Wilmington, NC" digitally written on top.

The Cape Fear Hooley is just one of the great festivals the Port City hosts annually. Our A Guide To Festivals In Wilmington, NC has details about the town’s top festivals.

Be sure to check that post out while you have your calendar close so that you don’t miss out on any of the fun this year.

Cape Fear Hooley Under The Bridge: Everything you need to know

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A clover decoration on a pole next to a lit up sign of a bridge.

The official title of the annual event is the Cape Fear Hooley Under The Bridge, but I’m gonna refer to it as the Hooley for the most part from here on out because that’s less words.

The Hooley is the precursor to the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Although, depending who you ask, it’s the better event. Personally, I love the parade. Ask Pete. I’m a fan of any parade. I will stand outside, super happy, watching all the floats and dance troupes and firetrucks going by. And I clap for them all.

But, if you want a fun event where you’re not restricted to standing in one place for an hour, with a partially obstructed view, check out the Hooley.

A pipe and drum band.

A large tent is set up in the Waterline Brewing (721 Surry St., Wilmington) parking lot with tons of seats and tables. Pro tip: You can bring your own seats, which we encourage you to do because the folding chairs that are provided get filled up quickly if you don’t get to the festival early.

Also under that tent is a large stage for all the performers. And there are a lot of performances, with a full day of music and dance from 11:30 am until 6:30 pm.

The best, in our opinion, is the Wilmington Police Pipes And Drums band, made up by local law enforcement officers. But the live music doesn’t stop there. There are two Irish bands from North Carolina taking the stage: Greensboro’s Banna Band and Raleigh’s Nine Times Around Band.

There will be the Triggle Academy Irish Dancers and UNCW Seahawk Youth Choir.

And food.

A bishop talking to the back of a food truck.

Waterline doesn’t have its own kitchen, but four local food trucks — Wheelz Pizza, Michaels Seafood, Chrome Gnome (the food truck for Platypus and Gnome) and Mommiez — will be on site. In year’s past, the food trucks have had some Irish food on the menus, but also, a full Irish food truck (the Black Sheep, which is run by The Harp in Wilmington) participated. It won’t be there this year, so, I’m not sure if there will be Irish food this year, but I hope there will be.

And, of course beer. The Hooley does take place at a brewery after all.

Waterline will be serving all of its beers, including its very popular Kolsch. Its Hooley Red, an Irish Red style of ale, will be available as well.

The way it has worked in the past, you could go inside the bar and order a drink there. There were also drink tents outside, amongst the artisan vendors tents, where you could buy a drink (if you’re 21+, of course).

A handheld Irish flag in front of a stage.

Cape Fear Hooley Under The Bridge: Frequently Asked Questions

What is a hooley?

hooley is an Irish party with music, or an Irish music festival with dancing.

How much is admission?

It’s free admission. The Hooley is a free outdoor event. It is a fundraiser for the town’s annual parade though, so donations are collected at the entrance, but it’s not required.

Is the Hooley an all ages event?

It is. Of course, you have to be 21 in order to drink, but you can hang out no matter how old you are.

If you’ve never been, Waterline Brewing Company is really family friendly. There are always a bunch of kids running around and playing outside. It also has a ton of board games inside the bar, which the kids play as much as the adult patrons.

Is there a charge for parking?

Parking is free on the street around the brewery along Surry Street (the street the brewery is on). You can also park on the nearby side streets: Queen Street and Dawson Street, under S. Front Street.

There’s a lot at Dram Street Park, off Surry Street past Live At Ted’s near Castle Street. We don’t suggest parking in that lot if you’re a car. It has long parking spaces designated for trucks with trailers, since it’s a boat launch. If you’re a car and you park there for the Hooley, you will get a parking ticket. I know from experience.

A sign on a billboard advertising the Hooley at Waterline Brewing.

Drugstore Divas has no association with the Hooley. So, for the latest news about the parade or for any changes to the festival details, we suggest you check out the official festival website and its social media pages.

A participant in the Wilmington, NC St. Patrick's Day parade.

Wilmington St. Patrick’s Day Parade Info:

Since the Hooley is the precursor to the parade, you might want some information on that. We have a full Wilmington, NC St. Patrick’s Day Festival & Parade Info post with details about the parade, other special events to celebrate in the area (like the day after party at the Ogden Tap Room), and where you can get Irish food in Wilmington.

The Battleship North Carolina on the Cape Fear River with the words "Wilmington, North Carolina Travel Guide From A Local" digitally written on top.

Plan Your Wilmington Trip:

If you’re coming to Wilmington for the Hooley, that’s only a handful of hours of your trip. For more ideas of what to do, our Wilmington, NC Travel Guide is filled with ideas, from where to eat and drink to free things to do in the area.

Have you been to the Cape Fear Hooley Under The Bridge? Let us know about it in the comments.