By Lauren Wanko
They huddled together under blankets and storefront awnings as a steady snowfall covered the street. It didn’t matter to these Irish Americans, determined to honor their heritage at the 42nd Annual Belmar & Lake Como St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“It’s great to be Irish and snow can’t keep us away,” said Middletown resident Rosie Scholz.
“It really shows commitment and to come out in all sorts of weather conditions and show such stamina to support Ireland and our heritage,” said Fiona McCabe of the Irish Consulate.
The parade honors Saint Patrick, the patron Saint of Ireland. It’s become a staple of the Jersey Shore, in some years attracting as many as 200,000 spectators, many of Irish decent.
“The Jersey Shore has always been known for the Irish Rivera,” said Belmar and Lake Como St. Patrick’s Day Chairman Chip Cavanagh.
“Most if us all came from Hudson County. Some of us from Hoboken, which was better than the rest of Hudson County, but we’re all friends up there and just kinda moved down,” said Rich Carroll of Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh of the Jersey Shore.
The winter weather didn’t stop these dedicated participants, all 5,500 of them. The parade starts in Lake Como and continues down Main Street in Belmar and ends on Fifth Avenue.
“Anywhere from 16 to 22 pipe bands, six high school bands, probably around 20 floats,” said Cavanagh.
“For people removed from a generation or two from Ireland there’s a little bit of a hankering, something in the air that makes you return,” said Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh of the Jersey Shore’s Michael Minogue.
And also makes for a little competition among mayors. Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop made the trip down the Parkway to not only walk in the parade, but decide which town throws the best parade.
“It’s terrific to have such support from the mayors in Hudson County and Morris County to come here and it’s a great opportunity for them to learn how to put on a parade,” said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty.
“We’ll see about that on March 14,” said Dougherty.
“We’re happy to support each and the more we can bring exposure to what we’re doing here to create economic activity, it really is a win,” said Fulop.
“This has traditionally been a shot in the arm for our businesses, a way to get their cash reserve built up for the summer,” said Lake Como Mayor Brian Wilton.
“It’s a great opportunity for all businesses, not only food businesses, eateries to put their best food forward. It’s for everyone to do their best to represent Belmar,” said CHris Brandl.
Others did their best to represent the Irish with their version of an Irish accent.
“Top of the mornin’,” said Lillian Hilton.
“Top of the mornin’! Wait, that’s Australian,” said Julia Nicolay.
As for the mayors’ parade competition, we’ll find out who won at the end of the month.