The transfer of the sash is a ceremony that has long been a hardy annual.
It was also something of a night for the hardy, Wednesday of last week, as parade officials, aides to the new grand marshal, delegates from various parade-affiliated organization and just plain parade fans braced a bone-chilling night for the annual installation ceremony which was held, as has been the case in recent years, at the New York Athletic Club on Central Park South.
Gibbons, a retired business executive and until recently the president of the Ireland-U.S. Council, will lead the 248th consecutive parade up Fifth Avenue on March 17.
And he is counting the days.
Gibbons said that he considered it an honor and a privilege to be following Tommy Smyth but as he marched up the avenue he would be thinking mainly of his “wonderful immigrant parents.”
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, said Gibbons, was a huge event, one in which Irish Americans celebrated faith and culture.
America, he said, allowed everyone to both celebrate their culture and to be part of the great mosaic.
Gibbons paid tribute to the parade committee members, describing them as “great executives.”
On the day, he said, the parade was run by volunteers and the work they did was “amazing.”
Gibbons said he was now “really looking forward to St. Patrick’s Day.”
Also looking forward is Irish Consul General in New York Niall Burgess who described the parade as “our showcase.”
Parade chairman John Dunleavy told the gathering that this year’s parade would be dedicated to the Sisters of Charity who were celebrating their 200th anniversary. Several members of the order were at the installation ceremony and were introduced by name to loud applause.
More than one speaker also noted that the parade itself was fast approaching its 250th anniversary, which will fall in 2011.
With that much in mind, the parade committee introduced a new parade corporate seal at a reception hosted by Consul General Burgess the previous evening at the consulate on Park Avenue.
In what the parade committee described as a unique design, the seal will be available to businesses and sponsors in March, Irish American Heritage Month.
The seal design is in the official blue color of Ireland and includes symbols representing Celtic heritage, Irish culture and Irish America.
“In the design, Celtic heritage is represented by the Trinity Knot and Triple Spirals of Life, Irish culture is represented by the Harp and the Shamrock, and Irish America, a center piece of the design is represented by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City,” the parade committee said in a release.
“Because of the uniqueness of the design, we can see the seal becoming one of the most recognized symbols of Irish America,” said parade chairman John Dunleavy.
“We hope the seal will become recognized as the symbol of Irish heritage and culture in the United States, much like the six rings are recognized with the Olympics, when used by their sponsors in their advertising” said parade secretary Hilary Beirne.
“The seal is a symbol that is Irish yet American. It represents our ancient heritage and Irish American culture and is one the American population of Irish descent can embrace and call their own,” he said.
According to the release, the seal design is the result of collaboration between Beirne, Garry and Tom Cronin of Minuteman Press in Elmsford, NY, John Dunleavy, Mike Gibbons, members of the Irish American community in New York and the parade committee.