One of the newest St. Patrick’s Day traditions in New Jersey has quickly become the can’t-miss event of the year for residents throughout Camden County. For four years, the Freeholder Board has partnered with the folks in Gloucester City for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and for four years the Board has watched the parade grow larger and larger still.

Gloucester City’s pride in its Irish heritage is well known. The city has the largest Irish-American population of anywhere in Camden County, and was ranked the ninth-highest Irish American identifying population per capita in the United States according to the 2000 census.

So, get out your shamrocks and join me in the wearing of the green on Sunday, March 3 at 1 p.m. for the Fourth Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Gloucester City. This year I’m especially excited, and honored, to announce that I have been asked to serve as the parade’s Grand Marshal. As a fifth-generation Irish-American, this annual celebration of Irish culture and heritage has always been, and remains, extremely meaningful to me and my family.

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In fact, my family’s lineage in Ireland dates back centuries and last year I was lucky enough to visit a former property my family lived on in County Armagh in Northern Ireland. It was an amazing experience to see the space the Moens’ from the past once roamed throughout the hundreds of apple orchards.

This year’s parade starts at Martin’s Lake, located at Baynes Avenue and Johnson Boulevard, and travels down Monmouth Street. There are great places all along the parade route to view the variety of marching bands, string bands and community groups that have already signed on to participate.

In addition to the parade, there are numerous events timed to coincide with the St. Patrick’s Day observance. On Sunday, March 3 at 9:30 a.m. an Irish-themed Mass will be celebrated at St. Mary’s Church, located at 426 Monmouth Street in Gloucester City. After the parade, St. Mary’s will be inviting everyone back to the Gloucester Catholic High School Cafeteria for a parade after-party beginning at 3:30 p.m. The after-party offers free admission to all parade participants and performers, and features a cash bar, Irish lunch, and open stage.

On Friday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. the annual St. Mary’s Irish Night Social will be held in the Gloucester Catholic High School Gym, located at 340 Cumberland Street. This Gloucester City tradition features Irish food, Irish music and Irish dancing.

Finally, join us again on Sunday, March 17 for the Knights of Columbus #674 Holy City Irish Breakfast for live music and a classic Irish breakfast. The festivities will be capped off that afternoon with a St. Patrick’s Day Party in the High School Gym beginning at 12:30 p.m. For more information, please visit www.stmarysgloucestercity.org.

The parade and the following festivities are an opportunity for all of us to come together as a community. It is another reason for neighbors to sit down next to each other and break bread and beverage while enjoying an event that is celebrated countywide whether you happen to be of Irish descent or not. While the original St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were mostly religious events Sunday will be an open, inclusive day that as neighbors we can come together and celebrate.   

William Moen is a Camden resident a member of the Camden County Board of Freeholders

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