Men and women from various clubs in the city dress in costumes of green and wave to the thousands of well-wishers along Washington Street. Kids squirt green Silly String into the air.
Hoboken's St. Patrick's Day Parade is traditionally held two weeks before the day that actually commemorates the saint. Organizers of the parade say that moving up the annual event allows them the hire the best bands in the region. If the parade was March 17, the same day as the event in New York City, the bands would most likely be marching in Manhattan or at some other major event. Also, organizers say that holding the state's first parade allows them to secure the services of first-rate Irish marching bands at cut-rate prices.
This year's event will have over around 16 different bands, including a half a dozen of the northeast's best bagpipe groups, several high school bands and fife-and-drum troupes. The bands will be joined by representatives from city and area fire and police departments and other civic organizations that are traditional participants in the parade, such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Elks' Club.
An army of volunteers run the parade without spending a single taxpayer dollar. The bulk of the money necessary is raised at an annual Irish dinner party. This year's party raised approximately $15,000 for the event.
Recently, the grand marshals of parades in previous years gathered to select a local resident to serve as grand marshal this year.
They agreed that lifetime Hoboken resident Joan Smith Cunning should be this year's grand marshal.
For the last 16 years, the Cunning family has spearheaded efforts regarding the Hoboken St. Patrick's Parade.
In fact, Joan Smith Cunning's husband, Edward, founded the first parade 16 years ago. From the beginning, Joan Smith Cunning has been involved with organizing the parade, "doing all the inside work," she says. But now she has the opportunity, thanks to the recognition from the grateful Irish community, to lead the venerable parade down Washington Street as the grand marshal.
The Cunning family has a long history of public service in Hoboken. Joan Cunning's father was a respected Hoboken fireman, and two of her sons are current firefighters. Another son is a decorated captain in the Hoboken Police Department.
Also marching in this year's parade will be the Irish Woman of the Year, Sister Rita McCarthy of St. Ann's Church, who for the past three years has dedicated her time to an evangelization program established by Fr. Francis Sariego of the church. This allows her to bring the seniors communion and companionship.
McCarthy, who spent almost 50 years as a teacher, has lived in Hoboken for a dozen years and has become a vibrant member of the city's Irish community.
Alongside Sr. McCarthy will be this year's Irishman of the Year, Edward Madigan, a lifelong Hoboken resident and local caterer. "This is definitely a great honor," said Madigan Wednesday. "There are a lot of people out there that they could have chosen, so that the fact that my name came up is a really nice feeling."
Paul Dawson, the owner of Mulligan's Pub, a popular Irish pub on First Street, said recently that the Hoboken St. Patrick's Parade has continued to grow over the years. "Each and every year it seems to get bigger and bigger," said Dawson. "There seem to be more families, more children and more Irish dancing."
St. Patrick's Day commemorates the missionary who drove all the snakes out of Ireland, according to legend. The parade, which begins at 1 p.m. on March 1, will run the length of Washington Street and will conclude at a reviewing stand in front of City Hall.