Student to March in Highlands Parade, Twice!

March 21, 2015
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HIGHLANDS – Henry Hudson Regional High School Junior Alex Braswell has marched in many parades, but the St. Patrick’s Day parade this Saturday in his hometown is probably the first when he’s marching in the same parade twice!

Alex, the son of Carla and Ken Braswell, is the drum section sergeant for the high school’s marching band. He’s active in many other activities at school, so naturally wants to continue his tradition of marching with the Admirals.

But he’s also a drummer with the Richmond County Pipes and Drum band of Staten Island. Since his family is originally from there and he’s marched with them before, he wants to be part of that group when it parades down Bay Avenue here.

So the only thing to do, Alex reasoned, is march with both groups.

The Admirals, consistent standouts in any parade in their sharp blue and white nautical-style uniforms, are near the front of this year’s line of march. The Richmond County contingent is towards the end of the parade, which is featuring close to 100 different groups. So with a bit of advance planning, Alex can fulfill his wish to do both.

Once the Admirals step off at Huddy Park, Alex will be playing his drums as usual. When the parade reaches the end of the route, near Bahrs’s Restaurant and the terminus of South Second St., Alex has arranged for a vehicle to be there, arranged for a place to make a hurried change of dress from nautical uniform to kilts, and then a quick ride back to Huddy Park to join the drum and pipes group.

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Tuesday, the drummer will be part of the Richmond County contingent once again at the New York St. Patty’s day parade. And he’s already marched in the Rumson parade last week, and both the veterans and Mardi Gras parades in New York in earlier seasons. Marching Tuesday in New York will spoil Alex’s school attendance record, his mother concedes, but points out he’s in several advanced program classes, has an excellent attendance record, and on special occasions, the marching experience is beneficial enough to make his school absence excusable.

The teen has a natural ability with drums, it seems. Although he’s had a lot of help from a friend, Albert Mongello, who is a music teacher, and his high school music director Jeffrey Starr, Alex taught himself how to play once another neighbor and friend, Rich O’Neil, gave him a set of drums. Tom Elliott was music director at Hudson at the time, and encouraged Alex in his pursuit of music.

Among the close to 100 marching units are several Pipe and Drum bands, including the Monmouth County, Union County and Middlesex County Police & Fire Pipes & Drums, the Ocean County Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, and other contingents from Staten Island and Essex County. Wind and Sea Restaurant owners Bob Higgins and Danny Shields, childhood friends, Irish descendants and natives of the Bayshore, are the grand marshals for this year’s event, with Joe Burke, who was project manager for the Highlands project in the Sandy Ground Project to build playgrounds honoring the Newtown Conn. Victims, will be St. Brendan the Navigator.

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The parade steps off at 2 p.m. at Huddy Park.

— By Muriel J. Smith

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