We know it’s fall and everyone has their minds set on Thanksgiving — but right now at Hoboken Girl, we’re thinking about St. Patrick’s Day. On November 2nd, the Hoboken Business Alliance (HBA) announced that residents and business owners would now be able to provide input in a survey to decide whether or not to bring back the formerly annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hoboken. This parade used to march down Washington Street to celebrate Irish culture + tradition locally — that is, until the parade stopped in 2011. Since 2011, the tradition has turned into the well-known bar crawl called LepreCon. The goal of bringing back the parade, according to the HBA press release, is to bring business back to bars and restaurants and simultaneously discourage and stop what has become the controversial LepreCon. Not to mention, the HBA also referenced wanting to make this parade family-friendly to give it back to local families + young children in the community. Residents have until November 10th to complete this survey. We’ve covered what you need to know about the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, LepreCon, and the current survey that lets residents decide how to move forward.
All About The Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade
As stated in the book, Immigrants in Hoboken by Christina A. Ziegler-McPherson, the first wave of immigrants to the city were mostly German and Irish in the 1840s. Most Irish immigrants came from the west coast of Ireland and they settled throughout Hoboken, mostly in the third and fourth ward. By 1870, the first few blocks of Ferry Street, Jefferson Street, and Monroe Street were predominantly inhabited by Irish immigrants, with the population growing steadily.
To celebrate the Irish community, Hoboken used to hold an annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade throughout the city from 1986 until its last run in 2011, when festivities were eventually stopped in early 2012 to ensure public safety.
It was the family of Helen Cunning, a lifelong Hoboken resident, who founded the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Her family began fundraising in 1985 for the event, in the hopes of bringing to life their dream of honoring their heritage in a fun and inclusive way for all visitors.
“I was elected to the Hoboken City Council in 1985. That year, members of my family and I were kicking ideas around for an event that would help to honor our Irish heritage and my dad suggested a parade,” Helen told Hoboken Girl.
“We had over 300 people at the Elks under the name of Helen Cunning + Friends. We were quickly joined by our friends and neighbors, as well as Joan Wall at The Shannon Bar and many of the then-new Irish pubs opening on 1st Street and formed a committee to start planning the first parade for 1986.”
The parade was turned into a 14-block march that began on 14th and Washington Street and ended on 1st and Washington Street. In its 25-year (arguably 26 if you count the beginning of 2012) history, it was New Jersey’s largest parade and drew spectators from throughout the Tristate area. Many of the town’s organizations and clubs participated in the parade, such as the Hoboken High School Rockin’ Redwings Band (as well as other high school bands), marching pipe bands, traditional Irish dancers, antique cars, fire trucks, cultural organizations, and nominated honorees for Irish Man and Woman of the Year, Firefighter of the Year, Police Officer of the Year, and more. Many people don’t realize it, but the bands that march + perform in parades are paid for their services, thus the need for a fundraiser.
Traditionally, the parade was always held on the first Saturday of every March, but in an attempt to maintain the rowdiness that occurred during the festivities, former Mayor Dawn Zimmer planned to move the 2012 parade to a Wednesday. Ultimately, the decision was made to cancel it indefinitely in early 2012 due to the overwhelming popularity that made it difficult to ensure public safety.
The LepreCon Crawl is a privately-organized event, coordinated by Pubcrawls.com, that quickly took the place of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Per its name, it’s a Hoboken bar crawl held on the first Saturday in March. The event became known as being a cause of public drunkenness and bar fights, leading to arrests, hospital visits, local complaints, and other issues. Per TapInto, the presence of law enforcement was increased in an effort to curb the rowdiness — especially after the crawl’s one-year hiatus during the pandemic. Increasing police presence and publicizing fines have reportedly helped decrease issues to an extent — though the event is still frowned upon by many locals.
The City of Hoboken has been trying to crack down on this event. Mayor Bhalla has urged both residents and businesses not to participate — though many local businesses say that participation is crucial to keep business afloat during a slow season.
“To be clear, this has never been, and never will be, a city sanctioned or sponsored event,” City Spokesperson Marilyn Baer told Patch. “As in previous years, Mayor Ravi Bhalla encourages individuals and businesses not to participate.”
Information and tickets for the 2023 LepreCon event are already circulating online — but a new press release from the HBA may change that.
Replacing LepreCon with the Parade: The Survey
On November 2nd, the Hoboken Business Alliance sent out a press release to share a survey that would let locals vote on whether or not to reinstate The St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“We believe that by working hand in hand with Hoboken officials, small business owners, and the still strong and fiercely proud Irish American community that calls Hoboken home, we can recreate the best parts of the parade,” Roxanne Earley, Executive Director of the Hoboken Business Alliance, said. “In order to do that we need the input of every corner of our community, and that’s why we are promoting this survey.”
The press release references the economic hardships that small businesses face during the early parts of the year, saying that the return of the parade will help bring needed business to these restaurants and bars. Plus, the HBA says it will be an effort to permanently stop LepreCon. A current proposal in the works states that the return of the parade would mean bar owners would have to say no to LepreCon.
“In recent years, the rise of ‘con’ events has filled this gap in a less culturally respectful and less community-friendly way,” the press release states. “Under initial plans being proposed by the HBA, a stipulation of bringing back the parade would be that bar owners would commit to refusing to participate in ‘Leprecon’ thus forcing the privately organized bar crawl to search for another host community.”
The HBA goes on to say that this move is also an effort to give this parade back to families, much like the recent Ragamuffin Parade. It would still be held on the first Saturday of March.
The survey will be open until November 10th. It asks a range of questions about how long you’ve lived in Hoboken, whether you’re in favor of the parade returning, whether you’re in favor of the parade being family-friendly and replacing LepreCon, and more.