SOMERVILLE , NJ – Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Somerville St. Patrick’s Day Parade has grown to be one of the largest in New Jersey, with crowds of 15,000-20,000 lining Main Street Somerville in past years.
Traditionally held on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, the March 13 celebration of Irish heritage features legendary Irish musician Willie Lynch and his wife Beverly as grand marshals.
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, politicians and all the trimmings, according to Pat Mannion, proprietor of Mannion’ s Irish Pub, 150 W. Main St. and member of the parade committee.
Stepping out 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.
For those who can’t wait until Sunday to celebrate their Irish pride, Mannion’s has a full slate of entertainment on tap Saturday and Sunday, as well as Wednesday, March 16 and next weekend, March 18 & 19.
Direct from Ireland is Irish Rake, performing traditional Irish music and some of their own material, according to Mannion. Irish Rake will perform Saturday night, Wednesday night and the following weekend, March 18 & 19.
Irish step dancers will precede the Irish Rakes tonight, as well as the other dates, all at 6:30 p.m. Bagpipers will also perform at Mannion’s March 16, 18 & 19.
The Irish step dancers are from the Lynn O’Grady Quinlan Connick Academy of Irish Dance, located in Hillsborough, and the Irish Heritage Dance Company, Chatham.
As in past years, Mannion’s will preside as the “unofficial” après parade rendezvous.
“We expect this place will be packed,” Mannion said.
In addition to the traditional Irish beverages that will be served, Mannion’s has ordered 1,200 pounds of corned beef that will be plattered and served to thousands of customers during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Lacking the proverbial Pot o’ Gold, parade organizers must pay for the marching bands, police overtime and other expenses, Mannion explained. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is financed entirely by donations and does not receive any government support, according to Mannion.
The Ancient Order of the Hibernians presented the parade committee with a check for $2,000 at the dinner honoring Willie Lynch last month. Lynch is one of the founding members of the Somerset AOH.