There isn’t a single Irish bone in Bruce Kleinman’s body. He is 100 percent German. But in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, Kleinman, his wife and their two sons left their Cranford home, bound for Union and the county’s parade.
“Everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” he said. “It’s fun for the kids to come out and see the show, and it’s a chance for everyone in the county to come together as a community to celebrate and have a good time.”
Kleinman stood with thousands of his neighbors from throughout Union County for the 16th annual parade, honoring the Irish community, including Bill Dugan, this year’s Grand Marshall.
Dugan waved to the crowd as he ushered in the beginning of the parade to Union Square, which was renamed St. Patrick’s Square for the festivities. People, decked out in green from head to toe, cheered as a dozen different bagpipe bands serenaded the parade route.
“This is my son’s first parade,” said Kenilworth resident Jessica Leverne, who was holding her 3-year old son, Jacob. “He kept his hands over his ears the entire time. There’s only so many bagpipes he could take. But he loved watching the police with sirens.”
She said the highlight of the parade was a fly-over by two New Jersey State Police helicopters.
It’s the only St. Patrick’s Day parade in New Jersey with a fly-over, said Patrick Scanlon, treasurer of the parade committee, who also emceed the event,
“You won’t see that anywhere else,” he said.
Scores of bands and police troops marched down Morris Avenue for the parade that lasted more than an hour. Members of local police departments, fire departments, the Coast Guard, politicians, dancers, radio stations and schools crowded the streets. A glow of green radiated from the street as even the furry friends donned their St. Patrick’s Day best for the parade.
Lois DeMarco, from Westfield, didn’t notice how long the parade was, noting it’s events like the parade that show how “wonderful it is to live in Union County.”
“You never really notice how many people make up this community until they all come out for an event like this,” she said. “Getting the entire county to park in one place and get to the parade on time? It shows how close-knit we really are.”
She brought her daughter and two friends from Scotch-Plains for the parade. It’s the first time the two families went to the same parade together, she said.
“This isn’t a Westfield parade, or a Scotch-Plains parade,” she said. “I can take friends from other towns without feeling like a traitor.”
That’s the sense of community that keeps William McCabe coming back every year – besides his Irish heritage, of course.
“I’m Irish, so I have to be here,” the Clark resident joked. “But besides my heritage that keeps me here is the environment. People are always happy and cheering, and celebrating Ireland, even if they aren’t from there. It means a lot to me.”
The parade even inspired McCabe’s grandson, who came out for the parade with his family.
“I’m going to learn how to play the bagpipes,” the 6-year old screamed in his grandfather’s face.
McCabe smiled, and told him he would buy his first set.