St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee hosts fundraiser

Photos by Jennifer Rubino
Pallbearers carry the casket inside for the ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ St. Patrick’s Day Parade fundraising event.

ROSELLE PARK, NJ — On Saturday, Feb. 24, the Union County St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee held a fundraiser for the upcoming March 11 parade at Sun Tavern in Roselle Park. The event consisted of a fun run and “Finnegan’s Wake.”

Runners gathered in the parking lot to race each other while holding a cup of Guinness. The goal was to run the fastest while spilling the least amount of beer.
The three male winners were John Zajak, Mike Butler and Bob White. The three women winners were Sabina Hobson, Jessica Cunningham and Pam Joyce.

“This is the last fundraiser we hold before the parade each year,” Co-Chair of the Union County St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee Kathy Noonan told LocalSource over the phone on Feb. 23. “We have the Guinness fun run followed by “Finnegan’s Wake.” It sounds morbid, but it’s really not. We have a casket and people dress in different costumes. Sometimes men will dress as women or leprechauns. We keep Finnegan’s identity a secret until the day of the event.

It’s always a different person. We put the casket on a table and bang on it. It’s about a 10-minute process. It’s pretty funny; this is the first year we’re having a truck drive the casket around the parking lot.”

A lot of people came to support the parade and have fun for a good cause. They took pride in their Irish heritage, and everyone did their part to make sure the event was a success.

“I contact all the people who have marched in the parade during previous years to invite them to participate again,” Debbie Sully of Cranford told LocalSource at the event. “I also invite new people to march. If we find some people to be in the parade at the event that would be great.”

Many of the people that came to support the parade have made it their business during previous years as well.

“I run every year in the fun run because it’s a lot of fun and supports the parade,” Maribeth Flatley of Elizabeth told LocalSource at the event. “I’m just starting to walk again. I was completely paralyzed two years ago. I couldn’t even talk. Now I can drink Guinness and try to run, but it’s all for the parade.”

It was the first year that the event was held at Sun Tavern, and the owner was very supportive of the parade.

“It’s a great cause for the parade,” Owner of Sun Tavern Andrew McCrone told LocalSource at the event. “It’s a great family parade. It’s nice to be able to give back to the community. It’s a good day for the Irish.”

A councilwoman from Linden was at the event to show support for her Irish ancestors and the parade.

“My in-laws are from Ireland so we’re very supportive of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey of Linden told LocalSource at the event. “We like letting the traditions run with our children.”

Damian Holmes of Union played Finnegan during “Finnegan’s Wake.” He dressed as a leprechaun for the part.

“Kathy came up with the outfit,” Holmes told LocalSource at the event. “She asked me to participate and I can’t turn down a good offer.”

Members of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee plan to march in the parade with the committee or other Irish groups.

“I will be in the parade,” Noonan said. “It’s on March 11 so it’s early this year. I will march down Morris Avenue with the committee or with other Irish groups depending on how much I can march that day. We raise money to put the parade on the street. The bands need to get paid, banners cost money, everything costs money; and hopefully we will leave a little bit of money for next year’s chairman.”