HomeNews TranscriptNews Transcript NewsSt. Patrick's Day Parade returns to Freehold for first time since 2019

St. Patrick’s Day Parade returns to Freehold for first time since 2019

FREEHOLD — More than a decade ago, Freehold Borough was able to proclaim it had “the shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the state.”

Traveling just one block along Main Street, the parade now marches along the entire length of the downtown area, from McLean Street to Elks Point.

The Freehold Borough Arts Council’s Freehold St. Patrick’s Day Parade began in 2010 as a
fundraiser to support arts programs in the borough, said Jeff Friedman of the Freehold
Borough Arts Council and DowntownFreehold.com

The parade has grown to include Downtown Freehold, the Columbian Club/Knights of Columbus, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians St. Oliver Plunkett Division 16 and the Freehold Elks Lodge No. 1454. The groups coordinate the events together and also have representation in the parade, Friedman said.

After a hiatus in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts council’s 10th parade is set to return on March 13. Marchers will assemble at noon at McLean Street and the parade will kick off at 1 p.m., passing the Monmouth County Hall of Records and the reviewing stand on East Main Street and on to Bennett Street.

Following the parade, at about 2:30 p.m., the Elks lodge, 73 E. Main St., and the
Columbian Club with Knights of Columbus, 70 E. Main St., will hold an afterparty at their
respective locations. The Eddie Testa Band is scheduled to perform at the Elks lodge.

“Freehold Borough has a large Irish history and population. I think every mayor the borough has ever had has been Irish. There is a strong Irish community in town,” Friedman said.

The last parade in 2019 featured more than 50 community groups and businesses marching along the approximately 1-mile route.

“Anybody who wants to march can march,” Friedman said. “We are hoping to have another
wonderful parade. We hope for a wonderful turnout. It’s a wonderful community event
celebrating the beginning of spring and it gets everyone together for a real fun time for all.”

There will be three contests held during the parade: best decorated outfit, best decorated bicycle and best decorated dog. The winners will be announced during a ceremony at the Elks lodge following the parade.

“Freehold Elks No. 1454 has had members march in the parade for the past five or six years, and our Motorcycle Committee has had members ride in the parade,” said Patricia A. Hamilton, secretary of the lodge. “We have been hosting the afterparty for at least four years, with top Jersey Shore area bands, and it’s the place to be following the parade.”

The special honorees for 2022 are Lori McLane, president and CEO of the United Way of
Monmouth and Ocean Counties, as grand marshal; and former Freehold Borough Mayor J. Nolan Higgins as community grand marshal.

Higgins’ paternal and maternal ancestors left Ireland in the 1850s and settled outside Freehold.

“My father’s side of the family farmed in Marlboro and my mother’s side were farmers in Manalapan and Millstone Township,” Higgins said.

Higgins’ father was a funeral director and opened Higgins Memorial Home on Center
Street in 1952.

“I assisted at the funeral home while a student and completed mortuary school in 1979,”
he said. “It is most rewarding to help people during the very difficult days they
experience at the time of a family member or friend’s death.”

However, St. Patrick’s Day is a day of celebrating life, and Higgins will take that to the
max as community grand marshal of Freehold Borough’s parade.

“St. Patrick’s Day was always a social day for family and friends to gather. We would
usually meet for dinner and reminisce about the old family members,” he said.

He and his wife Christine; daughters Jessica and Allison; son-in-law R.J.; grandchildren
Bexley, Callie, Benjamin and William; and brother and sister-in-law Gregory and Eileen –
Gregory is a religion teacher at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft – keep those
memories alive.

“I have attended every parade. The parade was started by the arts council during my
term as mayor and I had the pleasure to march with our governing body in the parades.
The parade is an event which signals that winter is coming to an end and the excitement
of our downtown will soon be upon us. This is the first opportunity for friends to see
each other after the winter months.

“It is an honor to be named grand marshal. It is very exciting to be recognized by your
hometown and share a great afternoon in Freehold with family and friends,” Higgins

Higgins served as mayor for eight years and is a lifelong Freehold Borough resident.

Lori McLane left the for-profit world nearly 25 years ago when a close friend was
diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin’s cancer and his protocol was considered
experimental and was not covered by insurance.

“I decided to spearhead a fundraiser which resulted in a 1,000-person, five-band event
at Tradewinds in Sea Bright that raised $10,000. I recall the manager mentioning it was the most successful fundraiser in their history and that I should consider doing this for a living.

“Ironically, I was a victim of downsizing a few weeks later and I decided to venture into
the nonprofit sector where I felt my work could make a measurable difference in the
community. Since then, I have held several leadership roles with national nonprofit
organizations,” she said.

McLane has been the president and CEO of United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties
since 2019.

“Our United Way works to bridge the gaps to education, financial stability and health for
every person in our community. We envision a community where everyone achieves
their greatest potential through a quality education, income stability and healthy lives.
Our work helps to ensure that everyone in Monmouth and Ocean counties has the
chance to build a better future,” she said.

Many of United Way’s programs help individuals in need in the Freehold Borough

Recently, the Warmest Wishes Coat Drive gave hundreds of students from the Freehold Learning Center elementary school, the Park Avenue Elementary School and the Freehold Intermediate School new coats to keep them warm during the winter.

Those schools also received donations of personal protective equipment to give students and staff members a healthy start to the school year.

McLane’s sister, Dru-Anne Palaima, is the events and marketing director for Downtown
Freehold and her boss, Jeff Friedman, “is considered family,” McLane said.

“Over the years, I have nominated many of the past grand marshals to help support the
brilliant work they have done for their community. It is such a fun day, as each year the
past grand marshals come back to support the parade and the current grand marshal.
… You have to come and experience the excitement, pride and camaraderie that exists,” McLane said.

McLane said she holds true to her Irish heritage through a sense of tradition and

“Despite adversities, the Irish are characterized by warmth, modesty, patriotism and
creativity as evident through music. Irish tend to emphasize one’s efforts and hard work,
not social status, and that is how I live my life,” she said.

Although she is not a fan of corned beef and cabbage, she does love her sister’s Irish
soda bread.

“No matter what my family has going on, we make sure we gather together to celebrate
St. Patrick’s Day and our heritage,” she said. “I believe everyone is a bit Irish on March
17! Freehold Borough’s colorful neighborhood comes together on this day for an
inclusive celebration. It reflects a sense of pride to identify their perseverance through

McLane said her friends and family members have been marching in the parade for many years.

During a friend’s holiday brunch in December, she said many guests shared how they had already ordered candy to ensure they would have enough to throw out to the spectators while they are marching in the parade.

“It is amazing to see so many past grand marshals still excited to return each year to
celebrate and support the Freehold Borough Arts Council, Elks lodge, Knights of Columbus,
Downtown Freehold and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

“Although I don’t enjoy the limelight, it is truly an honor to be named grand marshal. It was the perfect transition to kick off the partnership with United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties and Downtown Freehold,” McLane said.

Visit https://downtownfreehold.com/ after 3 p.m. March 12 to check for potential cancellation information.

- Advertisment -

Stay Connected


Current Issue