Update: Hamilton has postponed their St. Patrick’s Day parade until Saturday, March 24.
Mercer County will run green this month in celebration of Saint Patrick. Both Hamilton and Robbinsville will be hosting their annual festivities in honor of the patron saint of Ireland after St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.
For Hamilton, March 24 will mark the eighth St. Patrick’s Day parade marching down Nottingham Way and the 33rd annual Trenton-Hamilton Parade. The parade begins 1 p.m. at the Nottingham Fire House, located at 200 Mercer St., and heads toward Nottingham Way. It takes a right onto Nottingham Way, following the road for a mile before ending at Hoover Avenue.
“That parade on Nottingham Way is a family-oriented parade,” said Vince McKelvey, parade chairman and MC. “It’s good for the businesses of Hamilton that day and it’s like the beginning of spring to us,”
Steinert High senior Madison Paternostro won this year’s Miss St. Patrick title, with Villa Victoria senior Emilia Siracusa coming in second. Paternostro will lead the parade in Hamilton with Siracusa shortly behind. Both young women received merit scholarships from the committee.
As for Grand Marshal, the committee chose one of their own in Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede. When she was a teenager, Yaede actually was runner-up for Miss Saint Patrick. The choice, according to McKelvey, was quite simple.
“Because of the support she’s given us with the facilities of the township since she’s been in office,“ he said.
Throughout the year, there are various fundraisers to raise the more than $50,000 it takes to put on this parade. From security to paying bands, the parade committee privately fundraises.
“The parade committee is a fundraising machine,” McKelvey said.
Parade goers will be able to enjoy pipe bands from across the state, as well as traditional Irish Dancers from the Hamilton area alongside decorative floats.
The weekend following St. Patrick’s Day, a smaller, community-focused parade will take place in Robbinsville’s Town Center for the 9th year. This year’s event is on March 24.
“They’re similar in the fact that they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the heritage of many Irish-Americans and non-Irish-Americans,” Robbinsville parade founding member Dave Doran said. “What sets them apart is the fact that Robbinsville is a small-town parade.
“We’re actually the only parade in New Jersey that doesn’t have a pub on its route,” Doran said.
The parade will begin at 1 p.m. at the Foxmoor Shopping Center, before taking a left onto Washington Boulevard, then right on North Street, then right on Newtown Boulevard to the roundabout and a right on Lake Drive. The parade then will pass the lake on the right and take a left on George Street, then a left on Park Street, then a right on Newtown Boulevard, then a right on Burnet Crescent and a right on Union Street and past the reviewing stand at the intersection of Lake Drive.
Grand Marshal Trisha Danze is thrilled to be able to celebrate her Irish heritage and humbled to be leading the celebration.
“I’m still so surprised that I am the Grand Marshal and extremely honored,” Danze said.
Danze is the co-founder and president of the non-profit Thea’s Star of Hope, which raises money for research regarding less toxic, targeted treatments for children battling brain tumors. Trisha’s daughter, Thea, inspired her mother to begin the non-profit after being diagnosed with a brain tumor at four months old. Although never fully in remission, Thea, now 10, is enjoying her middle school days at Pond Road.
The name of the organization came when Danze began fundraising six years ago and quickly needed to think of a name to participate in a charity event.
“It was sort of easy, the name. Thea is such a star and a super outgoing kid. We have such hope, so it became ‘Thea’s Star of Hope,’” Danze said.
TSOF has donated over $150,000, sponsored numerous families and teamed with organizations, such as the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Danze said to make sure to watch out for her all over the community as she will be starting an Instagram hunt through visits with local R-Ville businesses.
Robbinsville’s 2018 Irish Person of the Year is Andrew Keris, who joins his father Paul in becoming the first father-son pair to be recognized. Growing up on a farm taught Keris various skills that he later used.
Keris has dedicated his life to giving back to those in need. In January 2017, the 22-year-old traveled to Kenya to work at a school in Nairobi teaching sustainable living. This coming spring, he will return to the small school he taught at to continue agriculture lessons.
“This year, the good work that Trisha does with Thea’s Star of Hope and, of course, Andrew with what he’s done in Kenya, they were very easy choices,” Doran said.
Those involved in this year’s parade will be marching in honor of beloved community member Joe Barker, the township recreation director who passed away last month.
“We will certainly be marching with heavy hearts for Joe Barker…he was heavily involved with this parade and we miss him deeply,” Doran said.
The 9th annual parade will house new surprises, new musical pipe bands and dance troupes and of course, beautiful new floats.
“We certainly owe a debt of gratitude to those on the Hamilton Parade committee. They helped us get off our feet and for that we’re grateful,” Doran shared.
Whether headed to Hamilton, Robbinsville or both parades, one thing everyone can agree on: needing the perfect weather.
“The key to the whole thing is the weather,” McKelvey said. “The weather’s good, Nottingham Way will be mobbed. If it’s cold, it’s half mobbed.”
“We’ve had eight previous parades and three of the eight we’ve had to juggle our dates, so we’re looking for some divine intervention and some good weather this year,” Doran said.