Editor’s Note: This is an editorial from TheBoken.com’s columnist “Drunken Polar Bear”. It represents his opinion alone and not necessarily that of the owners or chief editor of this site.
Editorial: Parades, Lepre-Cons and a Shillelagh
I am 28 years old. And Irish American. And a Hoboken resident. And a beer lover. So it should be no surprise that all the coverage around the Hoboken St. Patricks day parade caught my attention. I write a bar column for one of the most popular blogs in town.
I love St. Patrick’s day and all the fanfare associated with it (except corned beef & cabbage). I have fond memories of marching in parades as part of my Catholic school’s group and was even doubly blessed because our group was led by my Dad and our Irish setter, Casey. During my college years at the University of Scranton, I celebrated the Scranton parade day 4 straight years (and even a few after graduation) by getting up early and knocking back Nattie Ice (yumm). With all the news, blog and TV coverage over the Hoboken St. Patrick’s parade skewing to one side or the other, we have forgotten the vantage point shared by most Hobokenites – common sense.
It’s Not the Parade that Defines the Day
I find it hard to believe that everyone is either staunchly opposed to the parade or all for it. And it’s not just the parade that defines the first Saturday in March for the past years. Here are the typical events in the St. Patrick’s day celebration I have observed during my many parades:
- Preparation – streets are painted green, beer is purchased in masse, parade route mapped out, the police forces gears up for the day and many people flock into Hoboken Friday Night.
- Kegs and Eggs – drinking starts early either at a house party or the bars. Lines of 50+ form outside bars hours before the open.
- Parade – yes, even though the central event of the day is a cool parade most people don’t see it except the few drunks who try to march in it.
- Party and Bar Hopping – the parade ends and the majority of people continue to hop between bars or house/apartment parties getting drunk.
- The Crime – open container, parking tickets, assaults of all variety, noise violations, public intoxication – the list goes on. The volume of crime varies each year, but nonetheless it will happen.
- The Mess – at the end of the day it looks like a hurricane has hit Hoboken.
Late last week it was “breaking news” that the Hoboken parade was cancelled. Oddly enough this shouldn’t be a surprise because of what happened in the 2011 parade. However, most people’s knee jerk reaction is that Hoboken cancelled the whole day of celebration because of what happened last year. To be clear, Hoboken told the Parade Committee (who are completely separate from the city of Hoboken) that the parade would be on a Wednesday this year because of safety concerns stemming from last year’s celebration. Can you blame them after all the reports of last year’s crime? Does the Parade Committee have the right to be disappointed? Of course – I am right there with them on that. Do they have the right to launch invectives at the city for harboring cultural bias against Irish Americans? Hell no – not only is that stupid and petty, but it is poor publicity.
What the city of Hoboken can’t do is cancel the “celebration” of the day. Bars will still open, people will still have parties and more than the normal amount of beer will be consumed. Hoboken may work with bars to regulate opening times and capacity to prevent chaos, but ultimately the fate of Hoboken St. Patrick’s day rests in the hands of its celebrants. Their first reaction was to organize Lepre-Con, an effort to still continue the celebration in the same fashion as Santa-Con. I applaud the effort to still continue the celebration, but wait with bated breath on the results of said celebration. Surely, those celebrating Lepre-Con will be masses of people similar to me – 20-30 year olds from Hoboken or surrounding areas looking to celebrate St. Pats by throwing on some green and spending the day drinking with their fiends. Does this sometime create a recipe for disaster? Yes. The roughly 1% of the 20,000 who will visit Hoboken get arrested or tickets and leave a noticeable black mark on Hoboken’s image, especially in the media. Is cancelling the parade a way to prevent this crime? Yes, but it’s not the entire solution. The fate of our beloved celebration can be easily understood using the metaphor of the Irish Shillelagh.
A shillelagh is a short, gnarled, very hard club made from the roots of large trees that not only is famous as an Irish walking stick, but in traditional folklore, a dangerous weapon when placed in the hands of a skilled Irishman. Most recently it was the weapon “Monk McGinn” wielded in the movie Gangs of New York. Why do I bring this up? Because those partiers who will descend upon Hoboken, on March 3rd hold our city’s shillelagh in their very skilled hands. They can turn it into a skilled weapon of destruction and wreak havoc and drunken crime on the city prompting further restrictions on Hoboken celebrations for years to come. The damage could even be worse than last year. While this seems a foregone conclusion to some, I hold out hope that common sense will prevail.
I hope that all those celebrants take this same shillelagh and use it as a peaceful walking stick, enjoying and celebrating a day in Hoboken where everyone can be Irish, have a pint and make a few friends. A day where many will get drunk, but do so safely and while respecting others. A day where it can be shown that the idiocy of the few don’t spoil the celebratory purpose of the many. A day where those celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Hoboken prove once and for all that common sense can prevail.
Maybe it’s a farfetched, but we all have to hope for something.
- The Drunken Polar Bear