St. Patrick’s Day: a Montclair Grand Marshal
St. Patrick’s Day parade benefit
Reception honoring Grand Marshal Michael D. Byrne
Sunday, March 8, 3-6 p.m.
Tierney’s Tavern, 138 Valley Road
Featuring live Irish music, step dancers, 50/50 raffle, dinner, dessert, beer, wine, soda
Tickets at the door or online, tinyurl.com/t2jfqf4. Proceeds from the event will directly benefit the parade.
Newark St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Friday, March 13, 1 p.m.
For information and parade route, visit Facebook.com/NewarkParade or @NewarkParade on Twitter.
By GWEN OREL
Michael D. Byrne remembers marching with his father, Eugene J. Byrne, in the Newark St. Patrick’s Day Parade when he was a child, holding a shillelagh (blackthorn stick). Byrne has been attending Parade Committee meetings for more than 30 years — and he’s only 40. His dad was Grand Marshal in 1990.
This year, the Parade Committee, chaired by Jack Doll of Union, elected the Montclairite the Newark Parade’s Grand Marshal. Eileen McGinley Hannaford is the Deputy Grand Marshal.
Doll, a third-generation firefighter, and a retired battalion chief in the Newark Fire Department, remembers anxiously awaiting his father marching down the street.
He said the committee elected Byrne because of his service, and how much he has done for the parade, among other things: “We always look for people of Irish descent to be the general chair of the committee, and Michael filled that bill for many years. It’s a monumental task, take it from me. When we looked for people who are of high stature in the Irish community, Michael fit the bill perfectly.”
Among Byrne’s accomplishments, he established the annual Newark Saint Patrick’s Day High School Band Competition and its Art and Essay contests for students of the Archdiocese of Newark. He is a board member of both the Saint Patrick’s Guard of Honor and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Oranges, which named him “Young Irishman of the Year” in 2014.
The current parade route, which starts at the Prudential Center, has been in place since 1999.
The 2020 parade is dedicated to the late Francis J. “Frank” Coyne, of County Galway, a longtime resident of West Caldwell. Coyne spent more than 40 years as a Chief Engineer on Broad Street itself, where the parade route runs, according to a release.
A reception honoring Byrne will be held this Sunday at Tierney’s Tavern, to benefit the parade on March 13.
The Committee is made of Irish-American organizations, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Knights of Columbus, as well as ex-officio members of the committee. For the past nine years, Byrne was the chairman of the committee. Doll is the 28th chairman in 85 years, since the committee was founded in 1936.
“One of the tag lines is ‘to keep the tradition alive.’ This is the oldest parade, founded in 1936,” Byrne said. “There had been parades in Newark up until 1892. It dissipated for some reason, and in 1936 the organizations came together to reform the committee, to form the committee to incorporate and to put a parade on the street. And, you know, we had parades from ’36 until 42 during the war. There was a little bit of a layover where we just had a Mass at Seton Hall University and then restarted the parade.”
Being elected Grand Marshal is an honor, Byrne said, and one that comes with a lot of responsibility: primarily to fundraise, Byrne said. It costs about $60,000 to fund the Newark St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which includes pipe bands, the high school band competition, and all the logistical requirements the parade needs, including things like purchasing the sashes people wear. There will be 11 bands in the competition this year. The competition is adjudicated by professionals. And the chairman, the Grand Marshal, and the Deputy Grand Marshal are all responsible for making it possible to march down the emerald green line.
There is an actual green line: Doll and Byrne will be at the Parade route next week, which begins on Broad Street, with paintbrushes in their hands to start off the ceremonial painting.
The social “season” of fundraisers and events begins right after the holidays, said Dolly and From now on, there will be a parade every weekend.
The parade has changed its meaning over the years: earlier it was a place for Irish Americans to network and help one another and have camaraderie, Byrne said. Today, it’s an important way to keep a reminder of traditional life. About 2,500 marchers will step out in front of about 5,000 viewers, making it one of the larger New Jersey St. Patrick’s Day parades.
“It’s a celebration of our Irish heritage, and the cultural diversity that is the United States of America,” Doll said. People march in the parade who are not Irish, including many different nationalities and ethnic groups, he said.
The parade commemorates a holy day: and in Newark, while the parade celebrates Irish culture, do not expect green beer or green rivers, Byrne said.
“It's a much more formal event than it is in some other places in the country. We wear morning suits, which is formal wear, to participate in the parade. We begin the parade day with a Mass celebrated by the bishops. So we certainly do regard it as a religious and a cultural experience,” Byrne said. “The purpose of the event is to honor St. Patrick, the glorious Apostle of Ireland. That's our mission statement in our bylaws and that's our goal as a committee. We want to enjoy the day, but we start with a Mass to honor St. Patrick.”
Both Doll’s and Byrne’s families hail from County Mayo. New Jersey has attracted a lot of Roscommon people, Byrne said.
“A lot of it is contingent on when people emigrated,” Doll supposed. His family emigrated before the Civil War. “I had a great-great-grandfather who served in the Union army. My great-great great-grandmother was the first female industrialist in New Jersey. She had a glass works factory in the Ironbound section in Newark,” Doll said.
However, unlike New York, the marchers in the Newark Parade do not march by county. Instead, they march by groups.
Byrne, who runs a political consulting business, as well as a pruning business, said that there are many Montclair residents in the parade, and some who are aides. This weekend’s event “will be a great bipartisan event,” he said. Byrne, who is a Republican, has freeholder and Democrat Brendan Gill as one of his aides.