The parade celebrates the life of St. Patrick, a patron saint of the emerald isle. According to legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock, because of its three leaves, to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to the Irish people.
The parade will run the length of Washington Street and will conclude at a reviewing stand in front of City Hall.
This year's event will have over 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.
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 were 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.
The Grand Marshal this year is 76-year-old lifelong Hoboken resident Jack O'Brien. O'Brien has participated in more than 100 parades, playing drums with an array of groups. In 2001, he was inducted in the New Jersey Drum Corps Hall of Fame. He has always participated in Hoboken's parade, which is entering its 17th year.
"I guess they asked me to be Grand Marshall because they reached the bottom of the barrel," O'Brien joked last week. "It's a great honor, and now my phone keeps ringing. I told people my autograph will go for as much as Babe Ruth's."
In addition to honoring O'Brien, the committee selected Hobokenites Eileen Calligy Foley and Thomas J. Hunt, Jr. to be the parade's Irishwoman and Irishman of the year.
Foley is also a lifelong Hoboken resident, and she is currently a teacher of early childhood studies at Hoboken Catholic Academy. Her Irish heritage can be traced on both sides of her family. Her grandfather was born in County Galway, Ireland and her grandmother was from County Cavan, Ireland. Her godmother Geraldine Calligy served as Irishwoman of the year in Hoboken in 1998.
Hunt, a mile-square city native, is the eldest of eight children. He is a member of the Arts Society League of New York, and he always likes to start a conversation with a stranger at a pub. A caring family man, his motto is, "It was never the loving that emptied the heart, nor giving that emptied the purse."