WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. -- The parade isn’t until March 12, but Kevin Downes, this year’s grand marshal of the Bergen County St. Patrick’s Day Parade, may have already set a record.
On Saturday, the lights went out at the Grand Marshal's Dinner Dance at The Graycliff in Moonachie for almost two hours. Downes wound up being installed in darkness with the aid of flashlights. It's safe to say that hasn't been done before.
Then one of Downes’ three daughters, Colleen, held a flashlight while he gave a speech.
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But the lack of light did not dampen the Irish spirit.
“I would say 90 percent of the people stayed,” Downes said. “The dinner started at 8 o’clock -- 9 o’clock the lights went out and at about 10:30, 10:45, the lights went back on and the Irish music started and everyone was dancing and enjoying themselves. It was pretty cool.”
He said his late parents, both of whose parents were born in Ireland, “were always proud Irish parents and were always big on the St. Patty’s Day parade, so me being named grand marshal -- they would have definitely been proud of that.”
Downes, 59, who now lives of Woodcliff Lake but grew up in Montvale, said he’s rallying a lot of friends and family to participate with floats in the parade, which is held in Bergenfield. One of the floats will be done by the Boys & Girls Club of Hawthorne, of which Downes is a trustee.
As to the significance of the day and what being named grand marshal means to him, Downes said, “I really feel that beauty of the Ireland is its people, because they are a warm and generous group of people. Any time you can represent them, the country or the flag, it’s really a special moment.”