Brief History of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade

St. Patrick was born in Wales, when it was part of the Roman Empire. He was kidnapped at about age 15, sold as a slave and taken as a slave to Ireland. There he learned to pray to God and experienced a conversion. After a time he escaped to France. Having loved the Irish people, he returned to Ireland as a missionary, the first Bishop of Ireland, around 432.

20 years later, most of the Irish were Catholic. There is much reverence and honor for St. Patrick as the Patron of Ireland to this day. He is very much a part of true Irish Culture today.

March 17, 1780 – After the long hard winter of 1779-1780 in Jockey Hollow, Morristown NJ, George Washington, in recognition of the support of his Irish militiamen, and there were plenty of them, gave them the day off and thus began the first St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in the United States. The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade then was in Morris County occurred in 1780:

  • March 17, 1979, thanks to the Irish American Association of Northwest Jersey (IAANJ), the first official modern day Morris County St. Patrick’s in Morris County, was held in Wharton, NJ. Parade marchers paraded down a one mile stretch of Main Street, Wharton, to the cheers of hundreds of spectators.
  • In 1981, while on a trip to Ireland, the president of IAANJ commissioned the nuns of the Carmelite Monastery, Tallow, County Waterford, Ireland to produce a hand-painted banner of St. Patrick and this exquisite work of art has led all Morris County St. Patrick’s Day Parades since then.
  • From 1979 through 1990, the parade became larger and larger as it grew in popularity. More and more groups joined the parade and more and more spectators came out to enjoy it. By 1983, there were 48 units in the parade.
  • By 1988, there were 56 units in the parade with over 1500 marchers and over 4000 spectators.
  • In 1990, the parade in Wharton had its largest parade with greatest number of spectators ever marching down Main Street, It was clear that the parade had outgrown Wharton, a small and gracious community that hosted the Parade.
  • In November 1990, IAANJ teamed up with the Friendly Sons of St Patrick (FSSP) of Morris County and began working with the Morristown administration to bring the parade to Morristown. It was a perfect place for the parade. It is the county seat; has a terrific and safe environment for a fun-filled family day for all residents of Morris County to enjoy; has adequate parking for parade participants and spectators; plus, Morristown has a rich history in Irish culture going back to the Revolutionary War.
  • January 18, 1991, a Certificate of Incorporation for Non-Profit Organization, was issued for St. Patrick’s Day Parade of Morris County, Inc., and a Board of Trustees was formed for the new non-profit organization. It was formed to run the parade, to pay parade expenses, and most importantly, to provide charitable contributions to promote Irish culture and support various local children’s and other organizations that benefit Morris County.
  • March 16, 1991, the annual Morris County St. Patrick’s Day Parade stepped off in Morristown for the first time with 3000 marchers, 13 bands and several floats and fire companies. There were thousands of spectators there to enjoy the day. It was a great day for everyone and has been ever since.
  • From 1991 though 2014, the parade has grown to over 120 diverse groups, including over 20 bands, with over 4000 marchers with 50,000 to 80,000 spectators enjoying the Parade each year depending on weather.
  • In 2000, the Morris County Parade history was submitted by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen to the Library of Congress and was. featured in the Library of Congress Local Legacy Program, a high honor and tribute to the efforts of parade organizers and volunteers. Our parade got national recognition. Today, it takes over 75 volunteers puttiing in in excess of 2500 hours each year to put on the Parade.
  • In 2006, to accommodate the parade’s growth in size and popularity the Parade route was extended three blocks by going around the Green instead of just passing through it.
  • Since 1991, the Parade has voluntarily donated over $250,000 to the Town of Morristown as part of the Parade’s good neighbor policy to keep the parade from costing taxpayers anything.
  • Since 1991, the Morris County St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc. has donated almost $350,000 to local charitable organizations in keeping with the mission of our Non-Profit organization.
  • Since 1991 Parade Day has begun with Mass at Assumption Church at 10:00 AM. The Mass is a special celebration of Irish Culture in honor of St. Patrick.
  • In 2012, the Parade added Pre-Parade events to entertain spectators around the Green while waiting for the Parade to start.

Additional Parade Facts

The parade is fully self-funded and receives no public funds for parade expenses. It is funded solely by generous donations from corporate and individual sponsors. There is no public money involved so there is no cost to tax payers.

The Parade has a very strictly enforced non-alcohol policy for parade participants.

The Parade is a “rain or shine” event unless extreme weather conditions render it unsafe to hold the parade. That has occurred twice:

  • 1993 — The parade was postponed a week due to a snow state of emergency in Morristown.
  • 2010 — The parade was cancelled on Parade Day due to severe weather making it unsafe for participants and spectators. Parade was rescheduled for April 10 that year.

Parade organization takes great pride in having provided a safe fun-filled day for Morris County residents and their families to enjoy each spring at no cost to Morristown for 36 years, and look to continue to do so in the future.