WEST ORANGE, NJ — After monitoring the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 for several days as well as the measures being taken by elected officials, health officials, first responders and other parade committees throughout the state, the West Orange Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee has announced that the 69th annual parade scheduled for Sunday, March 15 will be postponed until September as a precaution.

Event chair Kevin Brennan said on Wednesday evening that he was "beyond devastated and saddened to" make this decision, but that the "health and safety of the public is [the committee's] highest priority." In a statement to the community on Wednesday, Brennan said that this decision was "not made lightly" and was made according to "the experts in the field and the direction that parades and other large events have taken."

"I understand the impact that this decision has upon our honorees, their families, the families and Irish organizations who support the parade and the many restaurants and businesses that depend on the parade for revenue to keep their doors open," said Brennan. "Some will think that this is a complete overreaction. I understand and appreciate that perspective. But based upon the information we have, we felt that this was the best decision to make at this time." 

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Mayor Robert Parisi also commented on the cancellation of the parade, stating that this decision was made "in the interest of public safety, the health and well-being of our community and all those that would attend the parade."

"We will hope that the spread of this virus will be under control in the near future and will look forward to continuing the parade tradition next year," said Parisi.

Brennan extended gratitude toward the mayor, Police Chief James Abbott, all West Orange first responders and public works members and all others who have worked hard over the last year to prepare for this year's event.

He specifically acknowledged "the best damn parade committee in the state for everything [they] have done to get [the West Orange parade] so close to the finish line."

"We Irish are a strong, proud people and have faced adversity before, however, we will persevere and flourish," said Brennan. "We look forward to seeing you all in September when we put the parade on the street at a time that is safer for the community."

The committee asked for the community's understanding "during these difficult times" and asked forgiveness from this year's honorees, which included Mellen Dangler, John Demars, Patrick Giblin, Bobby Lamb and Robert Swenson.

"You are all outstanding and respected leaders within the Irish community, and we are extremely proud of the way you represented your Irish heritage in such an outstanding and commendable way," he said of the honorees.

Other local parades that have also been postponed or canceled include Newark, Morristown, Union and New York City.