Back and Better than Ever: Jaspers Embrace Irish Heritage at NYC’s In-person St. Patrick’s Day Parade

By, Christine Nappi, Senior Writer 

This Irish Heritage Month, students, alumni, friends and family can get back to doing what they love: representing Jasper Nation at the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration. After a two-year hiatus spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City’s annual march down fifth ave will resume in person– and members of the college are ready to embrace their heritage and show pride for the school they love most. 

NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is the world’s largest and oldest parade, having started on March 17, 1762. According to Louis Calvelli, Director of Alumni Relations, Manhattan College has marched, or has curated some type of celebration, since the college was founded in 1853. He and many other members of the college community are eager to march down fifth ave again and recreate what the experience was like before the pandemic. He predicts many Jaspers will attend the parade this year. 

“It feels wonderful to finally be able to step onto Fifth Avenue and march up representing the College,” Calvelli said. “To be able to have marched with Jaspers up Fifth Avenue, and listening to the pipes and drums the cheers of everyone as we marched, it was just thrilling, and to recapture that is going to be wonderful.” 

In years past, there have been somewhere from 300 to 500 Jaspers representing Manhattan College in the parade. This year, Calvelli predicts many Jaspers will partake in the parade because it is the first time since March 2020 that it will be in-person. In addition to alumni, friends and family, members of the Gaelic Society and the award-winning Pipes and Drums band will be representing the college. 

The Gaelic Society will be hosting a brunch on-campus the morning of the parade, and will take the 1 train to the city afterward. There will also be a breakfast at 10 a.m. at Connolly’s Pub & Restaurant before the parade assembles at 11:30 a.m. The procession will be led by President O’Donnell and end with a reception at the Jasper-owned East End Bar & Grill.

Senior Elizabeth Ta, the Co-Vice President and the bass drummer for the college’s Pipes and Drums band is excited to march in the parade again this year. As she describes, Pipes and Drums is “really a big family,” because of the band’s camaraderie and teamwork. She is looking forward to having a fun time with the band, but also getting to experience the feeling of marching down Fifth Ave. 

“I’m just glad to be out there again and marching with everyone because it’s so fun,” Ta said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience… seeing everyone that’s enjoying the music makes me really happy. It’s fun, again, and you just feel really special marching up fifth ave with everyone watching you, especially being the bass drummer.”

Pipes and Drums has been representing Manhattan College since 1981, and in the 2019 parade, received second place in the category of “College Pipes and Drums.” Additionally, in 2016, the college received first place in the “Best Marching Unit” Colleges category. While this year presents another opportunity to win awards, Ta, and other parade attendees are just happy to be back, marching and playing in-person. 

Ta finds that being in Pipes and Drums helps represent the college in a positive way. She hopes that her position in the band and her identity as a woman and person of color can inspire others. 

It’s important because you get to represent the school, a lot of people do come up to you, a lot of people do know Manhattan College so it’s like we represent the school and this is what we do there,” Ta said. “Especially Being a person of color in a Pipes and Drums band, it’s special for me. Children, people of color, see me march and I feel like if you see someone in just an all white band… Pipes and Drums just feel a little more special and I hope that someone, even a female, a woman, can march in a parade and play bass and drums.” 

Junior Brenna McNamara is another student that will be marching in the parade with the Gaelic Society. As the social media coordinator for the Society, she is hoping to re-instill Irish traditions at the college. As she describes, the Gaelic Society has struggled to maintain a strong presence on campus since the pandemic hit, but this is something she hopes to change. The society is hoping that the St. Patrick’s Day parade becomes a popular event for Jaspers to attend again. 

“I definitely want to put a staple on having Gaelic Society be such a big club again and having the St. Patrick’s Day [parade be] such a staple event that everyone would like to go to,” McNamara said. 

  In addition to preparing for the parade, the Gaelic Society has also been reigniting the college’s once highly-popular Irish Night that has diminished in the face of the pandemic. This year’s Irish Night was held on March 4, from 4-6 p.m. and was the first Irish Night in-person since the pandemic. McNamara finds events like Irish Night and the parade to be quintessential to the college’s Irish culture, and thinks attending the parade this year can be a way to embrace that culture. 

“Manhattan College is really in tune with the city and with our roots of being [an] Irish Catholic college,” McNamara said. “[The St. Patrick’s Day parade] really represents what we do and just who we are.” 

In addition to the NYC parade, Jaspers are also invited to march in the Naples, Florida, St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 12 with fellow friends and alumni living in the area. The Naples parade this year will be in tribute to Jim Connors ‘57, who recently passed away. According to Calvelli, Connors organized and coordinated Manhattan’s presence at the Naples parade and was a proud Jasper. 

As Calvelli describes, seeing Jaspers gather together in another state, miles from New York, is a true testament to their love of Manhattan College. 

“It’s a substantial parade for a small little city like Naples, and to to see a contingent of Jasper’s there is something [that] encourages me to continue to do the kind of work that that I do because even Jaspers of a certain age still hold their love for the college really close, and it shows even in Naples,” Calvelli said. 

Whether it be in NYC or Naples, Manhattan enjoys putting on a parade as a way to embrace the college’s identity, celebrate St. Patrick’s day and to connect current students with alumni. As Ta and McNamara describe, they both enjoy meeting and networking with alumni through the Gaelic Society and Pipes and Drums. 

Ta in particular likes speaking with alumni because they have a perspective on what the college was like pre-pandemic. 

“You hear a lot of old Manhattan College stories and especially during the pandemic, I feel like the school itself [and] the students too lost connection to the school, like school spirit and everything, so hearing those stories and hearing their time at Manhattan College helps like rewind it back [to see that] I am grateful to be here at this school,” Ta said. 

Ultimately, students like Ta and McNamara see that they will belong to the Manhattan College community for life and will always have a Jasper by their side. As Calvelli describes, connecting with alumni, no matter where they may be across the country, is the most special part of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. 

“[It’s] just a thrill to be part of the Manhattan College community and to help our Jasper’s continue to stay engaged with one another, and with the college,” Calvelli said. “So events like these help us do that, whether they’re regional events, or events that we do host [in the] New York metropolitan area.”