By Dawn M Chiossi
It has been said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day: Thousands if not millions of Americans look forward to the holiday, whether they have Irish ancestry or not. It’s all about laughing, merriment, raising a glass, and having fun. Towns are no exception. They anticipate the holiday yet to come and celebrate it as a community.
Take Hackettstown for example. They are celebrating their 11th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade Event on Sunday March 10th, and everyone is invited. The time will be from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. with the parade kick off time at 3:30 p.m. This year, the Grand Marshal will be James “Jim” Travis.
This annual event will be sponsored by the Hackettstown Business Improvement District (BID), and even at this early stage, they are already eagerly anticipating this event. Founded in 2005, the Hackettstown Business Improvement District’s mission is to promote the town and existing businesses, seeking to improve and enhance the physical aspects of the town. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is no exception.
According to officials, this Irish-American tradition is extremely popular. It attracts more than an impressive 14,000 visitors alone, making it one of the biggest events in Hackettstown.
“We look forward to this every year,” enthuses Hackettstown BID Director, Jim Sheldon. He shares that even at this early date, 25- 30 people have already responded.
Brilliantly enthusiastic, this family-friendly event is guaranteed to bring out the Irish in everyone. Great for all ages, this event is much more than the standard parade, much more than a ¾ of a mile route.
For the people of Hackettstown, the celebration is a weekend long. Leading up to the parade, Hackettstown BID will be sponsoring two Bar Crawl Nights in February where Grand Marshal Travis and other celebrities are slated to serve drinks and mingle.
Additionally, kicking off the parade weekend, attendees can enjoy the Grand Marshal’s Gala Reception to honor Grand Marshal Travis. The reception dinner will be held at Davis Country Inn, located at 314 Main Street.
For the parade itself, Sheldon can’t say enough about it. He has been involved with the Hackettstown BID St. Patrick’s Day Parade for all 11 years himself, and it is easy to see his enthusiasm for it. He excitedly shares that the parade this year will feature Irish Dance groups, numerous Irish bands, bagpipes, pipes and drums, and much more. In addition, much of the community eagerly takes part in this event. There are schools, community groups, police and fire departments, rescue squads, slated to appear. There’s even Civil War reenactors, to Animal Squads.
“This event is so popular, people line up on the streets to see it,” Sheldon shares. At one time, we had 90 groups respond!” Even keeping the insecure weather in mind, the Hackettstown BID Parade is always a hit. “It just brightens things up.”
“There’s so many crowd favorites, it is difficult to choose,” he says.
Some other delights of the event are the Float Decoration Contest where attendees can even decorate their own floats for judging, and prizes. The decorate floats are as much a part of the celebration as the marchers, or any other events, so everyone is invited to show their creativity. In the past Sheldon points to floats that included Irish themes, garden themes, and flowers. “This is a wonderful way of showing your creativity, so inspirational,” Sheldon remarks.
At Hackettstown’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, no one is left out of the celebration, not even our four-legged friends! There will be a special pet costume contest where pets will be invited to walk the parade and be judged on costumes afterwards. Officials are thrilled. “It’s great seeing little Irish dogs dressed up,” Sheldon quips.
To Sheldon, this family-friendly event is something for all ages, “We see so many of the same faces,” he enthuses, “from the people to the businesses involved. They just love it.”
For Sheldon, it’s about connection and sharing as well and the efforts do not go unnoticed. He even mentions there’s a firefighter from Hackettstown, Ireland who often makes the trip for the local parade.
“My favorite thing is just seeing all the people just come out and enjoy the whole event,” Sheldon says. “After all the prep, the parade just takes on a life of its own. Seeing their faces makes it all worth it.”