SOMERVILLE, NJ - President Trump has declared March as Irish-American Heritage Month, continuing a White House tradition started by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.
That’s also the year Somerville hosted its first St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a central New Jersey tradition that will continue on Sunday, March 11, with a parade down Main Street that is considered one of the largest celebrations of Irish heritage in the Garden State.
The 27th anniversary parade is expected to draw upwards of 15,000-20,000 people. Held on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day each year, the parade begins at 1:30 p.m. on East Main Street adjacent to the Somerset County Courthouse and heads west down Main Street, concluding two hours later in the vicinity of the plaza where Borough Hall is located at West End Avenue.
There will be floats, pipe & drum marching bands, Irish step dancers, civic organizations, fire companies, youth groups, politicians and all the trimmings, according to Pat Mannion, proprietor of Mannion’ s Irish Pub, 150 W. Main St. and member of the Somerville St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.
The celebration at Mannion’s gets an early start Friday night, with live Irish music and step dancers, and continues through the weekend. It picks up again Thursday, March 15 on through St. Patrick’s Day March 17 and the weekend. Mannion said he has already ordered 1,200 pounds of corned beef and expects a follow-up order.
Stepping out on the parade route will be eight pipe and drum Irish bands and 75 marching units, including the Somerset Police Pipe & Drums; St. Ann’s of Hampton Pipe & Drums, the MacGregor Pipe Band, the Immaculata High School Color Guard and Marching Band, the Somerville High School Marching Band and the Mummers’ Aqua String Band, according to Mannion.
Leading the line of march will be Grand Marshal Finnbar Kirby, the 2018 Hibernian of the Year.
Kirby was born and raised in Cork City, Ireland. He is the second oldest of six boys. Finbarr is married to Anne (nee McCarthy). The couple just celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary. They have four sons; Derek and his wife Mary, Alan and his wife Cindy, Barry and his fiancé Lisa, and Paul. They are also the grandparents of Megan, Michael, and Jenna.
Kirby received his formal education at Turners Cross from the Presentation Brothers and continued his higher education at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). Finbarr then undertook a 5 year apprenticeship for Steam-Fitting and Engineering. This led him to work for various companies throughout Ireland, England, Wales, The Bahamas, and the United States. For a couple of years, Finbarr also experienced life on the Atlantic Ocean while working on off-shore Rigs off the coast of Ireland.
In 1989, Finbarr and Anne applied and were granted the opportunity to live in the United States. They left Ireland to start a new life in America with their four boys. They arrived and settled in Manville.
During his first years in America, Kirby attended activities sponsored by various Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) Divisions. Finbarr then joined his local Division, Saint Patrick Division 1 of Somerset County. Finbarr has been a proud and active member for over 25 years. During his membership, he served on the executive board for 8 years which included a two year term as division president. He also was the chairman of the dinner dance committee and has represented his division at countless New Jersey state conventions, and national conventions.
He and his family are supporters and active members of the AOH & Ladies Ancient of Hibernians (LAOH). Kirby is still active assisting in the annual Family Picnic, Thanksgiving Turkey Drive, and will also be representing his division at the AOH National Convention in Louisville later this year. His sons are “Keeping the Tradition Alive” as members and supporters of their local AOH Division, Saint Patrick Division 1, Somerset County, NJ.
Following is a portion of Trump’s Irish-American Heritage Month proclamation:
“Irish Americans have distinguished themselves in every sector of American life,” Trump said. “Many have been among the key architects of our country’s greatness. Nine of the men who signed our Declaration of Independence were of Irish origin. Presidents Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and many others have traced their roots to the Emerald Isle. Businessman Henry Ford, founder of one of America’s most iconic companies, was the son of an Irish immigrant."