Sunday is Parade Day!
Tens of thousands expected to line streets of Belmar, Lake Como for annual parade
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BELMAR — As parade day quickly approaches, the Belmar-Lake Como St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee held one of its final large events last weekend to raise funds for the 41st Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade slated for Sunday, March 2.
The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been held every year in the borough since 1974.
Lake Como resident Chip Cavanagh, parade chairman, has been involved in the parade from its start and his mother, Jackie Cavanagh, was the first secretary of the parade committee.
In 2004 he was named co-chairman of the parade and four years ago he became the man in charge.
Mr. Cavanagh, who works nearly year-round as a volunteer to make the parade possible, said if the weather is good, the committee expects approximately 80,000 to 100,000 people to attend.
He said the fundraisers are held to help pay for costs associated with the parade — one of the largest costs is paying the bands who participate.
Mr. Cavanagh said 21 pipe bands will be participating this year and over 200 groups will be marching.
The two groups leading off the parade will be the Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh of Old Bridge and of the Jersey Shore — along with firefighters from throughout the state, marching in memory of those fallen during the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks.
Mr. Cavanagh said between the first two groups there is approximately 2,000 marchers and, if the weather is nice, a total of 10,000 people can be marching in the parade Sunday.
Mr. Cavanagh said while Sunday’s fundraising event at 507, located at 507 Main St. — one of seven fundraisers — had a smaller crowd than usual, he said the fundraisers have all paid off.
Along with Sunday’s fundraiser at 507, other events were held over the past few weeks at local bars and restaurants.
Mr. Cavanagh said he would like to thank all the businesses who opened up their location for the fund-raising events.
“Thank you,” he said. “To all the places where we’ve held our fundraisers, because without them we’d have no place to have these events to raise money.”
With the parade set for Sunday, Mr. Cavanagh said the committee is finishing up the final preparations.
“We’ll be ready,” he said. “We’re Irish and we’re determined and we’ll be ready.”
John Sheridan, of Monroe Township, will be the grand marshal leading off the parade this weekend. Mary Keaney, of Brick Township, will be this year’s deputy grand marshal.
Mr. Sheridan, who was born in Dublin, Ireland, came to the United States for work in 1987 and has been heavily involved with the Irish community in New Jersey ever since.
Mr. Cavanagh said the executive board overseeing the parade chooses a new grand marshal every year and bases the decision on the persons’ involvement with the Irish community.
Mr. Sheridan is the former president of The Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh of Old Bridge, chairman of the 2014 New Jersey Irish Festival and is a member of the executive board for the Belmar/Lake Como St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
As the grand marshal, Mr. Sheridan’s largest responsibility will be to lead off the parade Sunday afternoon.
Mr. Sheridan said he is honored to have been chosen as grand marshal and wishes his parents, still in Dublin, could be here to see him march.
“It’s an unbelievable honor being straight from Dublin, and getting involved,” he said. “It’s just overwhelming and I couldn’t be more proud to be from Dublin, Ireland and to be involved in this way — it’s a tremendous honor and I thank Chip and the executive board committee for giving me this honor.”
Avid parade-goers will have two new things to look forward to this year.
Students from the Christian Brothers Academy [CBA] Pipes and Drums band of Lincroft will be marching in the parade for the first time.
Also, the Belmar Library will be sponsoring a float with Irish folk band, Thomas Wesley Stern of Jackson.
Mr. Cavanagh said he would like to thank everyone who has made the parade possible for the past 40 years.
“I would like to thank em’,” he said. “And to keep coming because without them [attendees] coming to support us, we wouldn’t have this parade and that’s really the truth.”
The parade is slated to kick off on Sunday, March 2 at 12:30 p.m.
The parade route will begin at the corner of Third Avenue and North Boulevard and make its way East on North Boulevard toward A Street.
The parade route, along with more information on train schedules, is available at the parade website, belmarparade.com.
Mr. Cavanagh said he looks forward to the big day which is all about being Irish for the day for some, and celebrating a long, proud heritage for others.
“There’s a lot of Irish heritage in the parade itself — with 21 pipe bands which you’re not going to see any place else in the state other than here,” he said. “It’s all about keeping the heritage alive and celebrating.”
TWO MORE TO GO
The final fundraisers for the parade slated for this weekend include an Evening of Irish Culture: Irish Heroes of the Civil War which will be held tomorrow night, Friday, Feb. 28.
The event will take place at the Waterview Pavilion, Highway 35 in Belmar, from 6:30-10:30 p.m.
At the event, David Kincaid will share stories of the Irish Brigade and perform their music in authentic Civil War uniform.
There will also be Irish step dancers and music by Paddy and the Pale Boys! For questions contact IrishCultureEvent@gmail.com.
On Saturday, March 1, the day prior to the parade, the grand marshal and deputy grand marshal of the parade will be sworn in.
The Investiture Mass will take place at St Rose Church in Belmar at 10 a.m.
An Investiture Luncheon will immediately follow at Doolan’s Shore Club, Route 71 in Spring Lake Heights. The luncheon donation is $30. To register for the luncheon call 732-449-6650.