NEWTON — Although Spring Street has seen a St. Patrick’s Day parade for the past decade, this year will be the "First Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade sponsored by the Newton Fire Department," as so designated by the Town Council.
To honor the help provided by the council when fire department members decided to pick up sponsorship, the parade committee has named the entire Town Council as this year’s parade marshals.
The parade will step off at 11 a.m. on March 21, led by Mayor Sandra Lee Diglio, Deputy Mayor Daniel G. Flynn, Councilman Jason J. Schlaffer, Councilman Matthew S. Dickson, and Councilwoman Helen R. Le Frois.
The parade starts at lower Spring Street, travels through to Moran Street where it turns right and ends at Memory Park. Floats must enter from Diller Avenue onto lower Spring Street and must be in place by 9:30 a.m. Walking participants must arrive before 10:45 a.m.
Parade Chairman Jason Miller said the council was being honored for its wholehearted support for the fire department picking up from the private group which had sponsored the parade in the prior years.
It was announced late last November that the annual parade was in danger of dying away because the Sussex County St. Patrick’s Day Committee, led by Dennis Harrington, was down to a couple of people.
"They (committee) sent out letters that the committee was retiring," said Fire Chief Scott Verkon, at that time, "and a couple of our (fire department) members asked if the department would pick it up."
The chief said town officials opened up computers and file drawers "and it was all there" on how the parade was organized.
Last year the thought was to honor Harrington and his wife, Mary, as grand marshals, "but they declined. They’re going to be in Ireland," the chief said.
While the parade is on, Miller said the annual breakfast and church service will not be held this year because "we wanted to be sure the parade went off. We’ll have them (events) back, I’m sure."
This year’s parade will feature nearly 100 units including veterans and active duty members of the Armed Services, police, fire and EMS units elected officials, bands, floats, Irish step dancers, community organizations, local schools, service and antique vehicles, and a variety of pets. There will also be Irish theme characters and sweets and other free treats for children.
Miller said area fire departments are also sending units for the parade and Mark Hontz is returning as parade emcee.
"Mark has a pleasant way of warming up the crowd with his wit, Celtic songs and self-accompaniment on his bagpipes," wrote parade publicist Lou Criscitelli.
Miller said groups or organizations interested in joining the parade, can complete a parade application and return it to the Newton Fire Department or the Town of Newton no later than Saturday, March 7.
Applications, along with additional information and pictures are available at: www.facebook.com/SussexCoStPatricksDayParade/ or at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.