SOMERVILLE, NJ – It’s all coming together - the Irish flags are flapping in the wind along Main Street and 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 10, with a parade down Main Street that is considered one of the largest celebrations of Irish heritage in the Garden State.
The flags were posted Tuesday in preparation for the 28th-anniversary parade which 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 a few days later on Thursday, March 14 on through St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, March 17. Mannion said he has already ordered 1,200 pounds of corned beef.
Stepping out on the parade route will be several pipe and drum Irish bands and 140 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, 14 Daisy troops and 15 Brownie troops, according to Mannion.
Leading the line of march will be Grand Marshal Jim Walsh, a longtime member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, St. Patrick's Division and the 2019 Hibernian of the Year.
Walsh was born and raised in Mahanoy Plane, Pa. He is the son of James and Sarah (Devitt) Walsh. His paternal grandfather came from Lawerencetown, County Galway, Ireland. He and wife Patricia have been married for 55 years.
They are the parents of daughter Kim who is married to John McCormick and their son Jim who is married to Beth Scozzafava. They have five grandchildren.
Walsh worked in his father’s grocery store after graduation from high school. He then joined the U.S. Army in 1960. He was assigned to the 3rd Infantry in Bamberg, Germany, where he spent two years. He attained the rank of Specialist 4th Class. He completed his service in 1967.
He came to New Jersey in 1963 He worked for Johns Manville for 17 years, Egan Machinery for 3 years, and Verizon for 25 years. He attended Somerset County Tech for 4 years where he earned his certification for electricity and HVAC trades.
A resident of Hillsborough, he has been a member of the AOH, St. Patrick’s Division, from its early days and he has participated in many of its functions. He served on the executive board, Thanksgiving food drive and ran the AOH picnic for 3 years when the picnic had 500 to 600 in attendance.
He received the “Outstanding Service Award” in 2003. He is a life member of the American Legion and the Manville-Hillsborough Elks Lodge 2119. He was a member of Christ the King parish for many years where he was one of the first Eucharistic Ministers. Jim ran the church car raffle for 3 years.
He was a Hillsborough little league coach for years. He is now a member of Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Hillsborough.
The following is Trump’s Irish-American Heritage Month proclamation:
“During Irish-American Heritage Month, we celebrate the indispensable contributions Irish Americans have made to every chapter of our Nation’s history. Generations of Irish immigrants have carried to our shores character, culture, and values that continue to play pivotal roles in the strength and success of America.
“Irish Americans helped define and defend our great Nation in its earliest days. The Continental Congress appointed more than 20 generals of Irish descent to lead the Continental Army through the Revolutionary War. The courage of these Irish generals on the battlefield was as inspiring as it was fierce. The Pennsylvania Line, the backbone of George Washington’s Army and one of its largest and hardest‑hitting units, consisted of so many soldiers of Irish descent that it was often called the “Line of Ireland.” After they fought for our Independence, Irish Americans helped enshrine the visionary principles of self‑government outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
“Many Irish Americans immigrated to the United States during the terrible years of Ireland’s Great Famine in the middle of the 19th century. Despite facing discrimination and poverty, Irish Americans persevered thanks to their industry, leadership, and integral involvement in society. In 1868, Irish‑American businessman Edmund McIlhenny grew his first commercial crop of peppers in Avery Island, Louisiana, and created “Tabasco” hot sauce. Andrew Mellon, the grandson of Irish immigrants, built a thriving business empire before becoming the Secretary of the Treasury, during which time he advocated for economic policies that sparked the tremendous prosperity of the 1920s. In 1937, he funded the construction of the National Gallery of Art and donated his extensive art collection to the museum.
“Today, more than 31 million Americans look back with pride on their Irish heritage and the legacy of their ancestors. The faith, perseverance, and spirit of Irish Americans across our country is indelibly woven into the tapestry of the American story. As we spend this month honoring the incredible history of Irish Americans, especially on St. Patrick’s Day, we look forward to a bright future of continued friendship and cooperation between the United States and Ireland.
"Now, therefore, I, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 2019 as Irish‑American Heritage Month.
“I call upon all Americans to celebrate the achievements of Irish Americans and their contributions to our Nation with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.”