By Grace Smith
St. James resident Denise Davis will experience the 35th annual St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade from a different perspective this year.
“I was shocked. I don’t know how they did it without me knowing.”
— Denise Davis
Since joining the hamlet’s chamber of commerce in 2004, Davis has marched at the forefront of the parade followed by floats, bagpipers and a sea of green. This year, she’ll trade carrying the chamber’s “St. Patrick’s Day” banner for a green checkered sash emblazoned with gold capital letters that will read “GRAND MARSHAL.”
“I was shocked. I don’t know how they did it without me knowing,” Davis said with a chuckle, referring to the board’s decision. “It’s really very special. I’m very honored.”
The 51-year-old, who has served as the chamber’s vice president since 2018, said her first thought upon being announced as grand marshal was of her late mother, Margaret Murphy.
“You couldn’t get more Irish than her,” Davis said, recalling her mother’s “Irish corner” — a small space in her childhood home’s kitchen filled with Irish plates and wooden plaques that read ‘Proud to be Irish.’ “I know she’s smiling down.”
Davis moved to St. James in 2003 after falling in love with the hamlet’s small-town feel. Having grown up in Brentwood, she said she wanted to raise a family in a close-knit community. It was also the perfect place to start her graphic design business, Artpix Studio, which she runs out of her home’s converted attic space.
Davis’ handiwork can be seen throughout the town. Since starting her business, the St. James resident has been the hamlet’s go-to artist for banners, logos and acrylic paintings, according to chamber President Scott Posner.
“She is awesome at what she creates,” he said.
However, Davis said her top responsibility this year is to bring the community together and pay homage to her Irish roots.
“Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” she said.
Parade Director Kerry Maher, who has served on the chamber’s board of directors for the past 18 years, referred to her colleague as “the perfect fit” for grand marshal.
“She really is the town’s unsung hero,” she said.
“She really is the town’s unsung hero.”
— Kerry Maher
Maher pointed to Davis’ volunteer work as a board member for the Deepwells Farm Historical Society, a nonprofit organization that runs year-round events at the historic 1845 mansion, and active involvement in the Mills Pond Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association.
“Her love of the town is endless,” Maher said.
On March 16, Davis will walk along Woodlawn and Lake avenues amid children from the community dressed as Irish princes and princesses. She said it sparks memories of when her daughters, Jillian and Jacqueline, did the same. However, this year Davis will be joined not by her daughters, but rather by her dog, Eloise, who also serves as the chamber’s mascot.
“The parade is fabulous, the town is fabulous because we have everyone working together,” Davis said. “Like anything else, you’re stronger together.”
The St. James St. Patrick’s Day parade will kick off at 1 p.m.starting at the Smithtown High School East parking lot on Woodlawn Avenue traveling to Lake Avenue and continuing to the St. James Gazebo at the railroad station.