James T. Callahan, Grand Marshal of the 2020 parade, moments after receiving his sash at New York City Hall Wednesday evening. Photo by Dominick Totino.
By Ray O’Hanlon
The venue was a new one for the introduction and investiture of the Grand Marshal of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
As far as Parade Secretary Hilary Beirne could remember, as far as City Council Speaker Corey Johnson could figure it, this was the first time that a grand marshal had received his or her sash in the splendid room that is the workplace for the New York City Council.
So James T. Callahan, who will lead the 259th parade up Fifth Avenue next March, was making parade history Wednesday evening.
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Callahan, General President of the International Union of Operating Engineers, was clearly happy with making history, with his sash, and at the prospect of leading Irish America’s grandest annual outing.
Callahan was also immensely proud of the honor, it being, he told the room, a tribute to his Irish immigrant forebears who had put their shoulders to the American wheel in pursuit of the American dream.
Mr. Callahan’s Irish roots are mainly in counties Limerick and Kerry.
Callahan, married to Fran and a father of three sons, was walked into the council chamber, and to a standing ovation, by bagpipers Joe Brady and Sean Dalgauer of the 69th Regiment. The American and Irish national anthems were sung by Andy Cooney.
Welcoming addresses were duly delivered by Hilary Beirne, who also chairs the St. Patrick’s Day Foundation, the parade’s fundraising arm, Irish Consul General in New York, Ciaran Madden, and Council Member Daniel Dromm, who heads the council’s Irish Caucus.
Parade Board Chairman Sean Lane was unable to attend because of the death of his father in Ireland.
The audience included union colleagues of Grand Marshal Callahan, a former top honoree in the Irish Echo’s Labor Awards, and members of organizations who contribute to the operation of the parade.
Hilary Beirne alluded to a new and improved relationship between the parade and New York City, an assertion underlined by the event’s venue.
The 2020 parade will take place on Tuesday, March 17.
The new grand marshal is already counting the days.