The Roots of the West Orange Parade can be traced back 50 years ago to two organizations that are still involved today. These Organizations are the Irish‐American Society of the Oranges and the Frank O'Hara Association. The organizations would march south along the west side of Main St. from Our Lady of Lourdes to the present site of the CVS parking lot. Upon reaching there, they would board buses and proceed to the Newark Parade.
In 1974 a permit was obtained from the Police department to expand the Parade. In that year, the Parade, following an expanded route, proceeded to Township Hall. It should be noted that in 1974 the Parade occupied the full width of Main Street. It was also during this time that the Parade was dedicated to Archbishop Thomas A. Boland, and that a reviewing stand was arranged at the West Orange Community house. The Parade sadly lost Archbishop Boland in March of 1979. The Archbishops last public appearance was fittingly at the Parade he admired so much, just five days prior to his death.
In 1976 the Parade Committee was formed and officially incorporated in 1977. This initiative was led by the first Parade Chairman Patrick J. Melvin. It was through Pat's vision that the modern Parade was born. Pat sadly passed in 1996 one day after his beloved Parade went up the street again, he remained an officer of the committee till the day of his passing. The Formation of the Parade Committee expanded the financial as well as the physical base of the Parade. The first formalized West Orange Parade was held in the bicentennial year of 1976. The Parade has grown exponentially from its modest beginnings through the continued dedication of the committee. The Committee today is comprised of many children and grandchildren of that "beginning" generation. The Parade has now become the pre‐eminent Parade in the State as few can match its unique combination of dignity, class and size. The Parade attracts thousands of Marchers, including Irish‐American groups in the area in addition to Fraternal, community and school groups. A very unigue tradition of this Parade is the Fact that all participants are encouraged to attend Mass together as a prelude to the Parade. The Parade Mass has become a beautiful Part of the day as the Marchers are led in by the Shillelagh Pipe Band. The Mass gives the Marchers pause to remember the unique intertwined nature Faith plays in Irish culture and how St. Patrick brought us this spiritual gift. Due to its appeal, the location of the Parade Mass is rotated yearly, involving the Parishes of Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of the Valley, Our Lady of the Lake and St. Joseph's .
The Parade's other tradition is it's annual investiture ceremony. This event is the social highlight of the St. Patrick's day season. This is the official swearing in ceremony of the Parade's Grand Marshal and Deputy Grand Marshals. The piping in and announcing all the former parade honorees from previous years who continue to return to support the Parade highlights the event. The newest honorees are presented with their sashes that day and formerly introduced as part of the Parade "family".
The Parade continues to grow in size and respect as witnessed by larger turnouts of marchers and spectators and the attendance of U.S. Senators, Governors, Congressman, and other elected officials. It has grown because of the Family atmosphere that has been provided and the family traditions it has fostered. New Jersey's "Family Parade" will continue to be successful because of the refined way in which it allows Irish‐Americans to demonstrate their Pride in their heritage and culture in a dignified forum.
The Committee has been an innovator in improving the Parade in so many ways. The advent of Flags, banners, posters, websites, pins, corporate sponsorships. etc. has constantly evolved to the point where the Parade has a unique look and feel that may be imitated but cannot be duplicated. The Parade has taken pride in honoring Men and women from all walks of life. The Irish have always been proud of being both Americans and of Irish ancestry. They have been among the most patriotic immigrants this Country has ever witnessed, winning more Congressional Medals of Honor than any other ethnic group. Even George Washington recognized this fact by having a hand in the formation of the first Parade in New York which is older than the country itself and is the largest in the world today. The West Orange Parade has been a social innovator in having the first Woman Grand Marshal and first woman Chairman of any Parade in the State. The Parade Committee today continues to be progressive with a relatively young Committee which features women in many of the leadership roles.
The Parade in the new millennium will continue to thrive as long as there is a true dedication to the spirit of St. Patrick. It is this dedication that has led to the success of the Parade as a regional event. This success is evidenced by the diverse thousands who watch the many who march, the increase in the bands, and by the televising of the Parade. However, the ultimate success of the Parade will be measured in years to come by the continued faith and pride of those generations to come. Faith in our Country ~ Pride in our Heritage!
Below is a PDF containing the above history as well as a complete list of Past Grand Marshals and Deputy Grand Marshals from the
West Orange St. Patrick's Day Parade, Inc.