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New Fairfield Town and School Budgets Presented at Board of Finance Public Hearing
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Peter Hearty marching in the 2001 New Fairfield St. Patrick’s Day Parade.           Contributed Photo

Peter Hearty marching in the 2001 New Fairfield St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Contributed Photo

All are invited to attend New Fairfield’s 50th Anniversary St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 14. A merry group of revelers will begin the march at St. Edward’s Catholic Church at 10:00 a.m. and will be led by the local Celtic Cross Pipes and Drums of Danbury down to New Fairfield Town Hall, where a ceremony will take place, including raising the Irish flag and singing the American and Irish national anthems, followed by refreshments in the New Fairfield Free Public Library’s children’s section.

The parade, sponsored by the local chapter of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians (AOH) is organized by New Fairfield resident Peter Hearty, who also plays in the bag pipe band that leads the parade. In addition, Hearty coordinates a special 9:00 a.m. mass at St. Edward’s just before the parade, explaining that “The mass is to honor St. Patrick who is the patron saint of Ireland.” He went on to say that raising the Irish flag “represents the country flag of which he brought the Christianity faith upon.” To prepare for the parade, the town obtains a state permit for the AOH to allow the marchers to proceed down Route 39. Hearty explained that “The New Fairfield police escorts our parade down the hill and the Fire Department has attended in years past and thank you to both services.” The parade is a celebrated fixture in New Fairfield, having run faithfully, rain or shine, every year since 1970, with the exception of one year in the early 90s when it was cancelled due to a snowstorm.

AOH is an Irish Catholic fraternal organization that began in America in 1836 following the scourge of famine in Ireland. Hearty explained that “One million people starved to death and over one million people immigrated to America. Lots of the Irish died on the passage to the USA. The AOH set up clubs to provide their countrymen a place to assemble and meet their friends. This helped the Irish to make new friendships and acquaintances. It also helped them find living quarters and, most importantly, jobs.” Hearty, who immigrated to America in December, 1963, from Northern Ireland to the Bronx, soon met and married his wife, Mary, and the two moved to New Fairfield in the late 60s. Hearty says that when he moved here, the AOH in Danbury “served as a home base for me to meet other Irish and Irish American men and women. I have made lifelong friendships there.” He served as President of the AOH in 1974 and 1999 and was named Hibernian of the Year in 1978.

The same types of outreach continue in the group today, with an active membership filled with people who are Irish, or of Irish descent, and practice Catholicism. Based at the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Center, the group supports newly arriving Irish, both economically and socially, participates in right-to-life activism, promotes finding a peaceful and just solution to the issues that divide Ireland, and more. The AOH is a men’s division, but there is also the Ladies of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH), who have a local chapter in Danbury as well.

The LAOH will be happily providing the refreshments and Irish soda bread in the town library’s children’s section following the parade. The parade, ceremony, and refreshments are open to all residents to attend or take part in, “All are welcome!,” Hearty says. “Good chat and Irish coffee will prevail. Wear your Green!”

     Join the New Fairfield St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 14, 10am beginning at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church.

     A special mass will precede the parade at 9am.

Sarah Opdahl