A chill air that blew across Lincoln Park did nothing to discourage those who arrived early for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The annual event has become a rite of spring, with the green worn by people of every creed and color, symbolizing more than just Irish heritage, but also a rebirth of the world after the brittle cold of winter.
This year, the ceremony took on even more meaning, especially for the firefighters who gathered near the circle of the historic fountain well below where the parade would start. They aggregated near the Lincoln Park fire memorial where historically they lay a wreath for those firefighters who lost their lives the previous year. Among those passing was Fire Capt. Gregory Barnas, who died during a Wallington blaze on Feb. 28). Firefighters and others paused and powed their heads.
“This is amazing.” -- Jim McGreevey
Good cheer would come later when up the hill at the foot of the Abraham Lincoln Statue, the 52nd annual parade finally kicked off, first with a flourish of police motorcycles, and then with the stiff wave of this year’s Grand Marshal, Philip F. McGovern, Jr.
Social event before spring
In some ways, this is the first social event of the season, a place to see and be seen, as political people rubbed shoulders with each other, and social groups made their presence known.
It was a parade ripe with tradition, and yet also a place where new innovations emerged, from the police pipe band to the two-wheeled bike riders promoting alternative transportation.
It was Mayor Steven Fulop’s first parade as mayor, and he seemed to eat it up, greeting people with a smile, wave, or a handshake.
But it was also a parade where old Jersey City met new, residents braving the chill to get a little post winter cheer as people marched past, wearing green and every other color imaginable.
The parade at Lincoln Park and proceeded slowly up Kennedy Boulevard to Journal Square.
Although everybody is Irish on this day of the year, John Patrick McGreevey – father of the former governor – was named Irish Man of the Year, riding the back of a convertible with his son, Jim McGreevey.
“This is amazing,” Jim McGreevey said, hopping out of the car to greet people on either side of the street. While not quite the celebrity as Mayor Fulop, McGreevey was well recognized. And his father seemed to noticed this, too, eyes glowing as he watched everything unfold around him.
Ann McGovern was named Irish Woman of the year. Sgt. Michael Hulings was named Irish Police Officer of the Year.
Not to be left out of anything Irish, former Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy was inducted into the parade Hall of Fame, a true tribute to a man who gave voice to many Irish ballads during his eight years as mayor.
Capt. Robert Leonard was named Irish Firefighter, Jeanmarie Gillen, Irish Educator; Leonel Garcia was named Honorary Irishman; Heather Collins, Irish Volunteer; and the St. Patrick Award was given to Thomas P. Giblin. Not to be devoid of beautiful people, the parade included an appearance by Nyla Mary Mulchahy of the Miss Colleen Pageant.
Yet for all those who marched, many more stood along the sidewalks to watch, nearly everybody wearing some form of green, many waving at faces familiar and unfamiliar, as is the tradition during events like these.
And while this was a day for the Irish, many other ethnic celebrations are expected to take place in and around Lincoln Park during the upcoming year.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.