County celebrates all things Irish

15th Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Newton

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  • Tammy Carodenuto was part of Christ Community Church's float in the parade. Photos by Laurie Gordon

  • From left; Sussex County Freeholder Deputy Director Sylvia Petillo, Paul Crowley, last year's Grand Marshal and former Mayor of Franklin, state Sen. Steve Oroho and Freeholder Herbert Yardley, meeting and greeting parade participants at the staging area.

  • Irish Dancers from the An Clar Irish Dance Studio, in Byram, prepare to march.

  • Salvatore Mattacctone, a banner guard for the Vernon High School Band, was excited to march in the Sussex County Parade and then head out to participate in the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade.

  • Local attorney and parade announcer, Mark Hontz, welcomed the crowd.

  • Members of the Kittatinny Regional High School National Tri-M Music Honor Society sang an incredible version of Danny Boy

  • "Clover” attends the parade annually since being adopted four years ago on St. Paddy's Day

By Laurie Gordon

— “During this winter, with the terrible storms, people huddled individually in their homes, many without power for an extended period of time. Now we gather, collectively, to celebrate the coming of spring and this great and wonderful parade.”

Thus Mark Hontz, a local attorney, and the announcer at Saturday's 15th Annual Sussex County St. Patrick's Day Parade, perfectly captured the mood of the many people who lined Spring Street from end to end to celebrate and to be entertained. They did and they were.

Following Hontz' introduction, Kittatinny Regional High School singers, who are distinguished members of the National Tri-M Music Honor Society, performed a soul-wrenching rendition of “Danny Boy.” The parade then commenced.

Sussex County Freeholder Deputy Director Sylvia Petillo said, “This parade sums up what Sussex County is all about. People support each other here, especially through the recent storms. Now they are out here celebrating. It's not spring weather, but this signifies that spring isn't too far away.” She added, “Sussex County is like its own world and I'm proud to live and serve the people here.”

“I love this parade," said state Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sussex). "Who doesn't love a parade? And the spirit of the Sussex County folks out here is fantastic. We thank the town of Newton for allowing the parade to be held here.”

He added, “One of the amazing things about this year's parade is that the Vernon High School Band will be marching here and then getting on a bus and heading to New York City for their St. Patrick's Day Parade.”

Salvatore Mattacctone, a banner guard for the band said, “It's such an honor to have been asked to march in both parades. New York will be big, but this parade is just as special because it's our county.”

The band was transported by bus to the big city right after the Sussex County Parade.

“All of the local high schools and every group that is part of this parade are truly appreciated,” Oroho added.

Tammy Carodenuto was part of Christ Community Church's float.

“It's so great to be a part of this and I've been in, I think, every single one," she said. "It's important for the community and I love doing this with the church."

Mara Mahon, of Stillwater, dances with An Clar School of Irish Dance, in Byram. She said of dancing her way down Spring Street with her school, “It give us a chance to celebrate our Irish heritage by showcasing traditional and contemporary dance steps in the Sussex County St Patrick’s Day parade.“

Her sister, who is also part of the troop, added, “Participating in the Sussex county parade gives me a chance to make memories with my dance family and build friendships that will never die.”

An Clar is owned by Lexa Hickey. “Marching in St. Patrick's Day parades is great fun," she said. "But it is March, so the weather is unpredictable."

For this reason, the dancers from An Clár do not wear their school or solo competition costumes. She explained her school's parade uniform requirement: blue An Clár jacket or sweatshirt, black pants, sneakers, and An Clár hat and gloves (and layers underneath).

"This way dancers stay warm, costumes aren't ruined, and the marching group has a neat uniform look,” Hickey said.

“Everyone's Irish today," said Freeholder Herbert Yardley. "It's a good crisp day and there's lots of positive energy. It's great for people to be able to get outside and enjoy the day and the parade.”

Paul Crowley, last years' Grand Marshall and former Mayor of Franklin said, “This is an important event and we're so glad it's continued all of these years.”

Diane Savacool was at the parade with a very special individual: her dog, Clover. Decked out in a green sweater, they were celebrating four years since she adopted him — on St. Patrick's Day.

Dennis and Marry Harrington head up the parade committee, and planning for the next year's parade commences the day after the current year's event. Planning and coordinating is a massive task, and the way it all comes together pretty amazing. Marchers and floats are staged at the Sparta end of Spring Street while fire trucks and emergency vehicles that will ride down at the end are lined up along the hill leading up and around Halstead School. Bands and bagpipe groups are carefully staggered throughout the parade as to not interfere with each others' music. The whole thing is a meticulously planned extravaganza.

The annual event is truly leaving a legacy, and Petillo commented on how important the parade is to perpetuate tradition.

“Especially in today's society, it's so very important and so great to see parents and grandparents bringing their children," she said. "They're showing them that tradition is important and instilling the value of enjoying annual events like this to the next generation”

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