"The main purpose is to celebrate Irish heritage, but we encourage everybody to come," said Maureen Killeen Hulings, parade chairwoman for 2005. "It's also to help promote our St. Patrick's Day Parade that we have in March, one of the longest in the state."
Admission is free, and the entertainment is varied. The musical selection includes traditional Irish and modern Irish. There are well known bands scheduled for the main stage located right on the water front, such as Celtic Cross, the Willie Lynch Band, Padraig Allen and Creede, as well as other smaller bands on a second stage opposite the main one. In front of the main stage is an area for dancing. The Hudson County Police and Fire Pipe Band will make an appearance. For the children, there will be clowns and face painters.
Not to be overlooked is a bevy of Irish food vendors and merchants.
"Last year, we had about five different bands, a beer truck, crafts from 25 different vendors, and 5 to 7,000 people came," said Mike Ryan, owner of P.J. Ryan's in Jersey City, who organized last year festivals. "A lot of Jersey City people came, also Bayonne and Manhattan. You have Irish groupies that follow the bands."
Hulings said that politics don't enter into the day, because the spirit is one of unity, and because they stress the unique identity of being Irish-American.
Ryan explained the difference between a traditional Irish pub and an Irish-American Pub.
"An authentic Irish pub is smaller and quieter, and has a little fireplace with traditional Irish music," Ryan said. "Irish-American is similar, but it's Americanized with an Irish host. Once in a while there is Irish music, but it's mostly an American flavor with an Irish theme."
Other characteristics of an Irish bar include dark green wood walls, a copper ceiling, a wooden bar, wooden floors, wooden doors, and a brick building. Served are Guinness, Bass, Harps and Southwick's. In an Irish-American bar, the Irish and American flags are both proudly displayed.
"The old Irish bars are disappearing in favor of the Irish-American," said Ryan.
Rock the vote
The Irish-American bars of Jersey City and Hoboken are embracing the American, though, as they continue the celebration after the festival ends at 7 p.m. with Rock the Vote events. Bars such as Shannon's Lounge in Hoboken, and P.J. Ryan's and Hard Grove in Jersey City are inviting people to their pubs to listen to music and register to vote.
"Voting has gone down. Everybody is too busy to vote, so we want to make it easier to come to a familiar place and register to vote." said Ryan. "We're trying to get young people out of Newport and downtown. Jersey City doesn't get a big showing from downtown people [voting], so we want them to come out and enjoy Jersey City and be a part of it by voting.