NUTLEY, NJ - The Nutley Irish American Alliance held their 39th Annual Grand Marshal Dinner at Nanina’s In The Park in Belleville Friday evening Feb. 3.

According to NIAA President Thomas J. McEnery, the dinner was sold out again this year with 300 attendees. “Every year the event gets bigger and bigger,” he told TAPinto Nutley. .

During the cocktail hour before dinner people were able to meet and greet with the parade dignitaries at the cocktail hour. The Grand Marshal Frank Daukuss was dressed in a tuxedo. All the honorees were given corsages or boutonnières by the NIAA.

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The parade booklet, created by NIAA Vice President Karen O’Connor, was presented to each table as well as 2017 Nutley St. Patrick’s Day Parade pins with a cross and rose in the center and the names of the honorees listed on the back. Grand Marshal Frank Dauksis, Deputy Grand Marshal Shane McClafferty, Member of the Year Colleen Nielsen, Parade Queen Morgan Sim and Firefighter of the Year Michael Budinick.

Golden oldies, Irish tunes and current songs were performed by the band Celtic Cross sponsored by Clifton’s Shannon Rose. Couples took to the dance floor enjoying the evening.

The Essex County Emerald Society Police & Fire Pipe Band performed while marching into the main dining area. The dignitaries followed in one by one proceeding to the platform with the NIAA Grand Marshal leading the way.

Opening the event Celtic Cross sung the “The Star-Spangled-Banner” as well as Ireland’s National Anthem – “A Soldier’s Song.”

McEnery acknowledged all present including; Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, State Sen. Ron Rice, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, Nutley Mayor Joseph Scarpelli, Nutley Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mauro Tucci, Nutley Public Safety Commissioner Alphonse Petracco, as well as, Belleville Deputy Mayor Vinnie Cozzarelli and Mary Ellen Clyne, Ph.D., president and CEO of Clara Maass Medical Center. 

Also present were Tom Graziano and Brenda Sherman representing the Belleville and Nutley Board of Education, respectively.  Organizations included the Nutley PBA and FMBA and Nutley VFW.

The Rev. Thomas Nicastro of St. Mary’s Church gave the benediction. He concluded the prayer with a traditional Irish Blessing.

The first honored was the Firefighter of the Year, Michael Budinick. “Nutley Irish is great. The trustees past and present do a wonderful job. The support is amazing everyone is great,” he said. Budinick concluded his speech with the Irish Blessing as well.

This year’s Parade Queen Morgan Sim approached the podium next. She lightened up the crowd with her laughter joking about her mixed Irish Italian heritage. She spoke of her father being a past Grand Marshal in 2008. “I was always at the parade especially when my father was the Grand Marshal and when I was in the Girl Scouts as well,” she said.

Colleen Nielsen approached the podium next thanking the officers for her honor as member of the year. She then announced the meetings are held at the VFW Post 493 on the third Thursday of the month at 8 p.m.

Nielsen explained when she first joined the NIAA all she knew was that they had a parade and a big dinner and raise money. “We do more than that, we are a big family. We put on the best parade in the state, but it’s also about family we do so many events about family,” she said. “2017 started out as an amazing year,” she added.

McClafferty stepped up to the microphone and joked that he was not prepared. “I see everyone prepares out speeches and I have nothing.” He then continues his speech in Irish acknowledging his fellow honorees. “I’m very, very proud to accept this honor to be the deputy grand marshal. Thanks to the Nutley Irish for bestowing this honor on me, thanks to everyone who is part of the Nutley Irish. This parade is not about us, it’s about our heritage and we have to keep the heritage alive,” said McClafferty.

Last but not least was the Grand Marshal. Dauksis mentioned how McEnery let on that he may be the grand marshal this year. “Tom kept saying ‘Shh don’t say anything yet.’ It was like a kid at Christmas waiting for the call. Tom told me again “Shh not to tell anyone, that it had to go through the board first,’” he said.

Dauksis spoke of his late father and said he felt like his dad gave him a pat on the back. “It’s a true honor to have Tom [McEnery] by my side through all this,” he added.

Tucci then came up front to announce the Nutley Board of Commissioners will be presenting resolutions to the dignitaries at the Tuesday, Feb. 21 meeting. “We celebrate you, Sláinte,” he said.

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