No parade, but Hoboken is sure greening up

Mayor Zimmer.

Without its lately controversial annual parade, Hoboken will still be the scene of varying celebrations this St. Patrick’s season.

The parade committee, which cancelled the march after a dispute with Mayor Dawn Zimmer, will host a Mass honoring Saint Patrick.

In sharp contrast, a group called Hoboken Lepre-Con is planning a massive pub crawl on the day the parade was supposed to step off.

Bars, restaurants and police in the city on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River are preparing for large crowds of revelers on March 3, or as some dub it, “Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day.”

And city hall announced last week that it has teamed up with some residents to launch the “Hoboken Irish Cultural Festival” on a weeknight before St. Patrick’s Day itself.

Zimmer wanted the 26th annual parade moved to a Wednesday evening from the traditional first Saturday in March to discourage some antisocial behavior that has marred parade day in recent years. Public drinking and lewd behavior have led to dozens of arrests and hundreds of citations issued on past parade days.

The parade committee cited “the city of Hoboken’s inability to protect our spectators, bands and participants” as the reason the parade was cancelled.

While bar owners have worked with the city to deal with the green-clad crowds, rowdy house parties on the day of the parade have become a problem throughout the “Mile-Square City.”

Even without a parade, the city of 50,000 seems to be set to host a party with many guests. According to the Facebook page for Hoboken Lepre-Con, almost 14,000 people will be attending their pub crawl.

The group’s website states: “You can cancel the parade, but you can’t cancel the party!!” and invites people to “dress up in full Leprechaun garb or other Irish festive gear and head over to Hoboken, NJ from 9 a.m. onward.”

The website is selling “official” t-shirts for $20 each that “will be used to identify you as participants of this year’s events” and will feature “a logo to verify authenticity” although the group has shared few details about the pub crawl.

The shirts are “not mandatory,” James Murphy wrote on the Lepre-Con Facebook page. “Each bar will potentially have their own cover charge. Dressing in a leprechaun costume OR wearing an official t-shirt will get you special deals and discounts.”
Lepre-Con has not released which bars are involved in the crawl or what specials and discounts are on offer. They may also have a problem with the 9 a.m. start time.

While the Hoboken City Council drew up a non-binding resolution that would have called on bars owners to open at 11 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. on March 3, many establishments are voluntarily opening later as in past years.

The pushed-back opening time will allow the city to deploy more police officers later in the day and at night to deal with the potential problems of public drinking and other violations, according to Hoboken Public Safety Director Jon Tooke.

The Hoboken Bar Network website advises readers that “most Hoboken Bars will be opening their doors to the general public at 11 a.m.” under a clock counting down the minutes to “Hoboken St. Pat’s.”

Twenty bars so far are listed on the site as opening in the late morning and each will have a cover charge as in recent years on the day of the parade.

“So just like the last 25 first Saturdays of March thousands will descend upon Hoboken,” reads the site. “As in year’s past, the city will be enforcing a zero tolerance for open beverage, public intoxication, public decency, and “House Parties”. These tickets could carry fines up to $2,000 for each offense. We ask all that participate in the celebration do so responsibly.”

The inaugural Hoboken Irish Cultural Festival will feature Irish sport, dance, music, and food and is free and open to all ages, according to a press release from city hall. The event is set for Wednesday, March 14 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Sinatra Park on Hoboken’s waterfront.

“The situation presented itself where Hoboken, a city with a long history of Irish-American pride, was left without a legitimate celebration of its Irish heritage,” said Chris Halleron, a lead organizer of the grassroots celebration. “This will not replace the parade.”

The Hoboken St. Patrick’s Parade Committee wished “the very best to the festival organizers and hopes for a glorious celebration of Irish culture.”

The Hoboken Guards Hurling Club will start things off with a demonstration of the Gaelic sport followed by a performance by the traditional Irish Step Dancers from The Garden Street School of the Performing Arts. Musical entertainment will include performances by Hoboken Irish-American artist Will O’Connor, Dublin’s George Murphy, and Paddy and the Pale Boys.
The festival is being funded through private sponsorship and not by the city, Halleron said. Proceeds from concessions at the festival will be donated via the Dr. Atlas Foundation to the Hoboken Shelter for the homeless and Hoboken American Legion Post 107.

The only official parade committee event will be a Mass honoring Saint Patrick on Saturday, February 25 at 5 p.m. at Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic church.

No public events are planned in Hoboken for St. Patrick’s Day which falls on a Saturday this year. But the city known for its young residents and busy bar scene will likely embrace another chance to celebrate “Irish season” without its traditional parade.

Source: Jim Lowney, The Irish Echo

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