By Kevin Callahan
Photos By Mike Plunkett
HAMILTON TWP. – Even though the Hamilton Township annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade had to be postponed the two previous weekends because of the weather, the third time was indeed the lucky charm.
On Saturday, members of the Insulators Local 89, the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9 and the Carpenters Local 254 marched in the parade, joining I.B.E.W. Local 269 out of Trenton, which came out strong again in Hamilton Township after supporting the St. Patty’s Day Parade for Burlington County in Mt. Holly on March 4.
“This parade was postpone twice, its tough to get this showing out two weeks later,” boasted Geraldine Wagenhoffer, a member of Local 89 for 21 years. “Everyone now has softball and baseball and soccer, but you have all these kids and parents here who probably have something else to do.”
Fred Dumont, the business manager for the Insulators Local 89 union out of Hamilton, didn’t let the previous postponements keep him from hosting his annual pre-parade party.
“We help finance this parade,” said Dumont, who has been in Local 89 union for 39 years. “There are thousands and thousands of people here and we get to say thank you for hiring us.
“Union members are the coaches who coach their kids, we are on the PTA, we are members of the community,” Dumont added. “When we ask people to hire local, they are hiring their neighbors and their friends.”
There were 40 members of Local 89 who met at Dumont’s home before marching in the parade.
“I especially like there are kids and grand kids here,” he said smiling. “It brings together the whole family.”
Dumont’s daughter, Candice, and her three children – twins Declan and Ascher, 4, and Finn, 2 – marched with Local 89.
“It’s such a fun tradition,” Candace said. “It’s probably the biggest parade that Hamilton does.”
Indeed, the union marchers and parade watchers were enjoying family fun time on this overcast, but warm March day.
Lenny Rataski, a Local 89 member for 16 years, brought his wife, Emily and children Max, 3, and Violet, 10 months, from Somers Point.
“It means the world, not just to celebrate with my brothers, but to celebrate with my family,” Rataski said. “A union is supposed to be one big family. It’s just good to see that.
“And the same qualities we stand for, we are trying to pass down to our kids.”
“I love for the kids to see it,” Emily said. “I think its good for them to see their dad and how much he cares about his brotherhood.”
The parade was originally scheduled the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, March 17, but poor weather forced a postponement until Saturday, March 18.
However, icy roads last weekend forced another postponement to Saturday.
“We have about 40 here, there were two cancellations, so I’m really happy with the turnout,” said Chuddy Whalen, the assistant business manager for the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9. “A lot of our younger members come and it’s a good way to get recognize in your home town and let them see organize labor and what we do.
“We have to promote our industry and let the people know there is a lot of good that we do,” added Whalen, who has been in the local for 40 years and whose father was the Grand Marshall of the parade in 1991.
This year, Tom O’Reilly, a criminal justice and homeland security expert from Hamilton, served as the Grand Marshall while Miss St. Patrick was Shannon McLaughlin, a senior at Nottingham High School.
Charlie Park and Stanley Rudziewicz, members of Local 254, built a float again for the parade.
“The Community is number one and we can’t have our jobs without the community backing us,” said Rudziewicz, whose 5-year-old daughter, Samantha, rode in the float.
Park proudly pointed to the two handsaws and hammer arranged as an emblem on the front of the float.
“We are the community,” added Park. “We are the ones who build the community.”
The event started with an opening ceremony around 12:30 p.m. at the Nottingham Fire Company. The 1.5-mile parade commenced down Mercer Street and then Nottingham Way before finishing up on Getz Avenue.
Paul Belardo, the counsel representative for Local Carpenters 254 based out of Edison, said there were about 40 men and women members and about 20 children marching. He added all of the members marching in the parade were out of Mercer County.
“We are not just here to support each other, but we are here to support the community,” Belardo said.
C.J. Gesemyer, the business agent for Local 89, came from Bucks County in Pennsylvania to march in the parade.
“They support us and we support them,” Gesemyer, who has been with the local for 10 years, said about the community. “They are important to us and we feel we are important to them.”
Mike Perri, an organizer, who is in his 29th year with Local 89, brought his niece and daughter to the parade with him.
“We all used to play softball, but we don’t do that anymore, so this is a good way to interact,” Perri said about union members.
Dan Smith, a friend of Local 89, wore the union’s green parade shirt.
“I am proud to stand with them and wish everyone a Happy St. Patrick’s Day,” said Smith.
Geraldine Wagenhoffer and her husband, Michael, came up to the parade from Millville.
“I like the way they all pull together,” Michael said. “It’s more of a family environment, which is really nice, even at other union events, it’s always a good turnout. It’s nice for me because I get the support, its not like I’m not a union member and can’t be here.
“It’s not just a union thing, it’s a union family.”
And it didn’t matter the parade was postponed twice.
“It’s a wonderful thing we do here,” said Geraldine, who is on the executive board of Local 89. “We drive up from Millville, so this is pretty important.” (To join our news letter and stay up to date text UNIONS to 22828 and sign up)