The Leprechauns are coming to Hoboken on March 3, and the mayor doesn’t really know what to expect.
In response to the cancelation of the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the first Saturday in March, a group of small residents logged onto Facebook and created the event known as “Lepre-Con.”
The idea models that of Santa-Con, in which thousands of partygoers descend upon New York City for a day of drinking in December, while dressed as Santa Claus. During “Lepre-Con,” the founders are hoping that people will choose to dress as Leprechauns for the festivities.
Either way, there is likely to be a lot of drinking.
The parade was canceled after the city and the parade committee (an independent group) couldn’t agree when to have it. Mayor Dawn Zimmer wanted it held on a Wednesday so that people wouldn’t come in from out of town to drink and party, which is usually what happens on the Saturday parade day.
The committee refused to move the parade and canceled it instead. Bar owners who want the business feared a loss of revenue.
Resident started it
Hoboken resident Jamie Darrah started “Lepre-con” on Facebook.
“Originally we wanted to do a bar crawl, but because of the size, we’re going to have a bunch of different bars participating with specials,” she said last week. “We’ll list those bars on our Facebook page.”
As of press time, almost 15,000 people, many from outside of Hoboken, confirmed on Facebook that they will attend the event.
Darrah said that a small group of residents co-organized the event. She said most of them are remaining anonymous “for personal reasons.”
“We saw the parade was canceled and we felt like [the parade day] was such a great time and obviously it’s a fun day for everybody,” Darrah said. “We knew the bars and other places really benefitted from this day. We felt that a few [crime] incidents was not a good reason for canceling it.”
The parade has been a hot topic of discussion over the past few years. In order to secure the top bands and not compete with nearby New York City’s parade, Hoboken held its own parade on the first Saturday in March. With the parade came house parties and bars raking in cover charges as high as $30 to $40.
Police will be out in full force
Neighboring police forces usually helped out in Hoboken on the first Saturday in March, and nearly every officer of the Hoboken Police Department was called in to work. On the parade day in 2011, police arrested 34 people and issued 296 summonses. There were also two rape allegations.
The City Council has debated whether the parade is the cause of the problems.
Councilwoman Beth Mason, a political critic of Zimmer, has said that the fact that the council is still discussing the issues surrounding the first Saturday in March shows that the parade wasn’t the problem.
“We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
By city ordinance, bars can open as early as 6 a.m. The City Council recently pulled from the agenda the mayor’s proposal to move that limit to 11 a.m., meaning the bars can still open at 6 a.m. However, last week, according to the Lepre-Con organizers, the bars agreed to open at 11 a.m. on their own.
But many say that the house parties are the problem anyway. Last year, some downtown apartment management companies forced tenants to fill out forms listing who was allowed in the building that day.
Police reports from the 2011 parade day reveal that many apartment lobbies and apartments were damaged on the day of the parade.
Darrah said that the Lepre-Con event could help cure the house party problem.
“We’re hoping there won’t be as many house parties, which we think was the real problem,” she said. “This event would be groups moving from bar to bar, benefitting the business community and keeping our right to have a good time and have a celebration.”
But Mayor Zimmer has reservations about Lepre-Con.
“It’s really all hands on deck,” Zimmer said last week. “We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. We’re working with the Sheriff’s Department, NJ Transit, and the Port Authority to have the same resources, if not more, that we had last year. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen on that first Saturday.”
The city has also restricted police officers from taking a vacation day on the first Saturday in March, meaning any and all police officers can be called in to work.
Zimmer said there would be “strict enforcement” and a “zero tolerance policy” in effect for drunken behavior. In the past, people have been issued $2,000 fines for violating quality of life ordinances.
“This Lepre-Con event, how widespread it really is going to be, is anybody’s guess,” Zimmer said.
Bar owners get involved
Last week, multiple bar owners met with a group of organizers from Lepre-Con. The organizers and bar owners are trying to work out special deals for the day.
Darrah said organizing the event has been “very time consuming” for her and the group of residents.
“We were hoping for it to get this big,” Darrah said. “But we didn’t expect it to take off this quickly.”
Lepre-Con t-shirts are even being sold online through the Hoboken Lepre-Con 2012 Facebook page.
“These will be used for bars to identify you as part of the 2012 Hoboken Lepre-Con event,” according to the event page.
City planning own event
In response to the cancelation of the parade, Zimmer and other city residents organized an Irish Heritage Celebration that includes a hurling demonstration, live bands, and Irish dancing for March 14 at Sinatra Park. The free event runs from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
“We needed to move in a different direction that is more fun for the entire community,” Zimmer said.
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