WOODBRIDGE – For Maryalice Jacko, the annual Woodbridge St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a family affair.
Jacko is the parade’s grand marshal this year, a role her father, George Aston, took on 30 years ago in 1989.
“It’s a one-time role so it is a huge honor to follow in my father’s footsteps,” she said, adding her father, who has since passed away, was very involved in the parade. “I have been involved in the parade since I was 18 with my brother, George.”
When the 46th annual parade kicks off at Woodbridge High School at 1:30 p.m. March 10, Jacko and her family will take their respective roles as they do every year.
“We are in charge of the organization lineup [of 100 or so separate marching units] and we are the last to march,” she said.
Jacko has been involved with the American Irish Association of Woodbridge, which hosts the popular St. Patrick’s Day Parade, for as long as she can remember. She served as Miss American Irish in 1984, and her daughter, Jessica, followed in her footsteps, holding the title in 2014. She served as an officer, director and parade chair; attended Halloween parties, picnics and boat trips; and ran an arts and crafts festival.
Along with her lifelong friend, Alice Sinatra, the duo ran association ski trips and are an inseparable team, from planning the parade to post-parade decorating and refreshments.
Jacko said now her children, Daniel Jacko and Jessica Bonilla, and her daughter’s husband, are involved in the parade, as well as her brother and his children. Her family helps out in all aspects of the parade and during post parade activities.
“It’s all in the family,” she said. “[The parade] keeps our Irish tradition alive and it’s a way to honor my dad since my kids as well as my brother’s kids did not get chance to meet him.”
The parade chair this year is Laura Jacobs. The association’s Irish Lady of the Year is Susan Crofford. Ken Gardner is Irishman of the Year. Erin Cahill, who is a senior at Edison High School, is serving as Miss American Irish, and Grace Fischer, a junior at Roselle Catholic High School, is serving as Lady in Waiting.
The Woodbridge American Irish Association is an Irish civic and social organization that has been around for 52 years. The association meets monthly and participates in a variety of community service events including feeding the homeless, sponsoring the Justin McCarthy Scholarship, maintaining the Charlie Shaughnessy Park, hosting the Joe Ward Breakfast, visiting the Menlo Park Veterans Home in Edison, and participating in Tooling Around the Township.
The parade is funded with advertisements from local businesses and donations. To support the parade, visit Amerirish.com.
The association and honoree ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. immediately following the flag raising ceremony at Town Hall, 1 Main St., on March 10. The parade will kick off at 1:30 p.m. at Woodbridge High School and ends at Woodbridge Town Hall. The post parade party will be held from 4-7 p.m. at the Woodbridge Community Center, 600 Main St.