- On a crisp, sunny Saturday afternoon Westhampton Beach painted its green stripe down Main Street in celebration of its 41st annual St. Patrick's Day parade and celebrated this year's theme - 'It's A Small World.'
Kicking off its 'Irish Weekend' Westhampton Beach began its festivities on Friday, March 14, when the Harlem Wizards basketball team played the Westhampton All Stars, followed by fireworks on the Great Lawn.
Saturday morning began with a traditional Irish breakfast held at Finn McCool's to benefit HUGS Human Understanding and Growth Seminars), which is a Westhampton Beach based drug and alcohol prevention program empowering youth with the necessary skills to navigate through life's challenges.
The afternoon offered a corned beef and cabbage luncheon at St. Mark's Church, a kid's carnival on the Great Lawn, and an aerobatic stunt air show at Rogers Beach Pavilion on Dune Road piloted by local resident Mike Mancuso.
The evening included a showing of "David & Layla," a romantic comedy at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center
The parade route began at the Westhampton Beach School grounds on Mill Road where buses parked and unloaded a plethora of participants. Beginning at 12 noon, the parade made its way down Main Street, ending in front of the large viewing stand at the Great Lawn, led by this year's Grand Marshall, Sheryl Heather.
Immediately following the Grand Marshall came former Grand Marshalls, including Jay Sears
and John Roland. Politicians joining in the observation included U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop
, State Assemblyman Fried Thiele, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman
, Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot
, Town Councilperson Anna Throne-Holst
and the Honorable Former Supreme Court Judge Edward Burke, Sr.
The friendly crowd of well-wishers and viewers included teenagers, seniors and families from all five East End towns and many regions on Long Island.
The first and second place floats depicting this year's 'It's A Small World' theme followed as the Westhampton Beach High School band marched and played Irish songs. The haunting and symbolic croon of bagpipes and drums filled the chilled afternoon air, with a particular melodic outpouring from the Armagh Bagpipes and Drums group, the oldest pipe band in New York State.
Nelson and Evelyn O'Brien of Westhampton Beach.
Revolutionary soldiers, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (whose members must be Irish or of Irish decent), Westhampton Beach's Historical Society, and representatives of the Westhampton Beach Fire and Police Departments all followed in marching order. Not to be counted out, the Hamptons Bays, Quogue and East Quogue Fire and Police Departments all touted their finest colors down the center of the street.
Filling in the ranks were representatives of the New York State Courts and members of Rescue Squads from many East End townships. Fire trucks sounded sirens, antique automobiles blasted horns, and elaborate floats towing seafaring boats made their way along the parade route while a band of Coneheads on skateboards made their way into the fray. Participants tossed handfuls of beads, candy, and occasional frisbees' and blow-up globes to eagerly outstretched hands. Vendors moved through the crowds laden with hats, beads, flags and hot pretzels.
Among the U.S. and Irish flags waving in the light breeze, many participants and viewers were donned in kilts, Aran knit sweaters, caps and hats. Aran (or Irish knit) sweaters historically represent each family's clan, and the actual stitches to make the garments were closely guarded and passed down from generation to generation.
The parade's four-footed marchers included dogs from Bide-A-Wee and horses from the Smithtown Hunt Club, all grandly strutting down the parade route.
Ending at the viewing stand by the Great Lawn, the parade lasted almost two hours and the efforts of the participants were greatly applauded and appreciated by the onlookers.
Local politicians attending Saturday's parade included (from left) the Honorable Edward Burke, Sr., Southampton Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer, Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, and (partially obstructed from view) State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop.
Sunday's festivities concluded with an annual 'Superbreakast' at the Kiwanis Club on Lilac Road, and the Great Westhampton Annual Easter Egg and Scavenger Hunt held at 12 noon on the Great Lawn, offering 4,000 elusive eggs containing special prizes and gifts from local merchants.
Participants were treated to a visit from the Easter Bunny. The Egg Hunt was followed by The Chamber's Scavenger Hunt when teams tried to decode the hidden clues in their search for the "golden" eggs hidden throughout the downtown.
A Wee Bit of History About Celebrating St. Patrick's Day
Proudly wearing green, members of the Westhampton Beach Fire
On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families traditionally attended church in the morning and celebrated in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, which is a Christian feast day and the anniversary of St. Patrick's death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for thousands of years.
The St. Patrick's Day custom came to the United States in 1737 when the first St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated in this country, in Boston, MA. However, the first parade took place not in Ireland, but in New York City
. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.
In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17.
Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism and showcase Ireland. Presently, up to one million people take part in Ireland's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin, which holds a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions and fireworks shows.
Eight-month-old Maggie Shea Gilbride attended her first
St. Patrick's Day Parade with tiara in place.
St. Patrick was born a pagan in Briton under Roman rule - the exact location of his birthplace isn't known, but it may have been either the north of England or southern Scotland. In his teens he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave. After spending several years traveling throughout Europe he concluded that he should become a priest. Upon completion of his divinity studies he returned to Ireland with the goal of converting the Irish to Christianity.
By the spring of 461, at the age of 76, St. Patrick was nearing his end. He died on March 17 after a long and fruitful life. The clans of Ireland began to bicker over who should receive the honor of having his final resting place on their land. To avoid this sacrilegious end to his life's work, his friends secreted away his body for burial in a secret grave.
Blarney Or Not
At the age of 50, Patrick made a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick. While he was in devotion, legend tells the devil came to tempt him and he resisted. As a reward Patrick was granted one request and he reportedly asked that the Irish should keep the Christian faith for all time.
The shamrock stems from an Irish tale that St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. And those snakes, they never were in Ireland. The banishment of snakes in Ireland is actually a metaphor
for the eradication of pagan ideology.
So enjoy an old Irish recipe for longevity: Leave the table hungry, leave the bed sleepy and leave the bar thirsty. Sláinte!
Members of the Flanders Fire Department joined in the festivities.
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.