WOODBRIDGE – For Charles Kenny, the honor of serving as grand marshal of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Woodbridge is about enjoying time with family.
“My mother and father, especially my mother, loved the parade and enjoyed this time of year,” he said, recalling parties at the family home with Irish music playing.
His Uncle Jimmy was a member of the Irish American Association in Perth Amboy and marched in a parade along Rector Street.
His grandparents were also involved.
“Like our parade, they drew a green line down the middle of the street,” he said.
Kenny has been a member of the Woodbridge American Irish Association for more than 20 years. He got involved when he was on the Woodbridge Township Council.
The 49th Woodbridge American Irish Association’s parade is set to kick off at Woodbridge High School, Samuel Lupo Place, on March 13. The parade ends at Town Hall on Main Street.
Kenny will join Irish Lady of the Year Karen Devlin, Irish Man of the Year Jim Leathem, Miss American Irish Sarah Olexa, and Lady in Waiting Victoria Gomez.
Kenny expects the parade this year to be bigger than normal. It will be a week after the state mandate for masks inside of schools and childcare facilities is lifted, and he expects people will be excited to see their friends, he said.
In 2021, the Woodbridge American Irish Association’s Parade Committee, in consultation with the township, decided to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade “out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our residents.”
In place of the parade, Parade Chair Ben Campbell suggested and led the association’s first ever “Parade of Food” campaign that made donations to local food pantries.
“Our club’s parade committee includes some of the most dedicated and resourceful people and I am so happy to work with this team,” he said.
The club is sponsoring a food drive again at each of the township’s firehouses through March 12.
The parade started in 1974 and is rarely canceled. The last time the parade was canceled was due to a Nor’easter in 2010 when Tom Henderson was grand marshal.
The 47th annual parade was held on March 8, 2020, with grand pomp and circumstance, a week before the novel coronavirus pandemic began in New Jersey.
The Woodbridge American Irish Association is an Irish civic and social organization that has been around for 55 years. The association meets monthly and participates in a variety of community service events including feeding the homeless, sponsoring the Justin McCarthy Scholarship, maintaining Charlie Shaughnessy Park, holding the Joe Ward Breakfast, visiting the New Jersey State Veterans Memorial Home at Menlo Park in Edison, and participating in Tooling Around the Township.
The parade is run by volunteers and funded with advertisements from local businesses and donations.
Kenny said he is grateful for all the members who work behind the scenes to make the parade a great success year after year.
Those who would like to support and donate or participate in the parade should visit Amerirish.com.