“You can cancel the parade, but you can’t cancel the party!”
That was the headline displayed on the official 2012 Hoboken Leprecon bar crawl website, and on Saturday, March 3, the event organizers delivered on their promise to keep the St. Patrick’s Day spirit alive in Hoboken. Even though the annual St. Patrick’s Parade was canceled for this past Saturday, thousands of revelers came into town for house parties, the bar crawl, or just to drink with friends on this traditional partying day in Hoboken.
This year, the parade was cancelled by its organizers after Mayor Dawn Zimmer requested it be held on a Wednesday instead of a Saturday to cut down on the increasingly rowdy atmosphere that accompanied it. The organizers, an Irish committee that is independent of City Hall, refused to hold the parade on a weekday. Without the parade as a focal point, some wondered if the bars would lose business.
That’s where individual residents and bar owners stepped in.
More than 18,000 people RSVP’d for the Leprecon event on Facebook, although many came into town without registering for the event at all. Morning showers may have put a damper on things, but the sun was out by 2 p.m. And lines began forming at bars before 11 a.m., the official time some of the bars on Washington Street agreed to open.
The “bar-crawl” itself consisted of seven official stops, but many more local establishments were offering discounts and benefits to those in attendance.
The first bar on the Leprecon tour was Scotland Yard, an Irish pub on Hudson Street just a stone’s throw from the train station that transported so many patrons in from New York and other parts of New Jersey.
Outside Scotland Yard, the organizer of Leprecon, resident Jamie Darrah, said she undertook the event because it was important to local businesses.
“A lot of places rely on the parade to bring in extra money for them,” she said.
Darrah expressed her desire to make the event a yearly tradition, even if the parade is reinstated.
Shortly after noon, one bouncer, among many working beyond the usual call of duty, called the event “crazy.”
“We’ve had a line outside all day,” he said. “We just can’t get all these people in fast enough. It’s packed in there.”
Other bouncers were not so optimistic about the outcome. One in particular thought that the parade cancelation took away from the excitement of the day and ultimately slowed down business.
Food and novelty vendors were also out. Kevin McDonald is a hot dog vendor who has attended the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day parade for 10 years straight. As if his name wasn’t a dead giveaway of his Irish heritage, his ensemble included a cartoonishly large green bowtie, orange, white, and green top hat, and full-sized Irish flag cape. McDonald said he was very glad that someone took the time to organize the bar crawl, because he feared his business would have suffered greatly by not having the parade.
“[The crowds were] probably about 75 percent of what it was last year,” he said. “You don’t get the people in the parade, and all of their family members that they bring with them, but there are definitely a lot of people here.”
There were a number of arrests made during the course of the day, and the police were out in full force patrolling the streets in groups of four or more.
According to City Hall, arrests were down from last year, from 34 to 18 (not including numerous citations). Total calls for service were 394, down from 482 last year.
After last year's rowdy day, the city took measures in advance to get the word out that visitors could face fines as steep as $2,000 for quality of life violations.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer said on Monday, “With most bars delaying their opening and without a parade serving as a focal point, visitors arrived in waves, but they were concentrated primarily in our downtown area, and our police were able to focus resources and maintain control. I thank the Hoboken Police and Fire Departments, EMS, OEM, CERT, and the public safety agencies from Hudson County and neighboring towns for their tremendous work keeping our community safe. I thank our Environmental Services team for cleaning up our streets and sidewalks and the bars and restaurants who voluntarily delayed their opening this year. I welcome all constructive ideas from the community on how we can improve further next year.”
Meanwhile, the city will host a free Irish heritage celebration this Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Sinatra Park on the central waterfront. It will include food, beer, live music, dancing, and more.
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