It only started five years ago, but the Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade has already grown into much more than just an Irish-themed parade — it has become a staple celebration for the tightly knit North Shore community.
Kevin Denis, sometimes referred to as “the professor,” started the parade in 2011 and said the growth has been exponential with each passing year, due in part to Kings Park’s strong Irish pride, but also because of his neighbors’ willingness to participate. This year, the parade committee announced it would welcome former Smithtown Councilman Bob Creighton as its grand marshal in what is anticipated to be one of Long Island’s biggest parades of the year, drawing thousands from Kings Park and beyond.
“This parade is a community parade,” Denis said. “Even though it’s a St. Patrick’s Day parade, the whole community supports it. Everybody wants to jump on board. It’s a great day for the entire town.”
This year’s parade, scheduled for Saturday, March 5, at noon, is slated to include more than 20 bagpipe bands, floats, community groups and more showing off pride for the Irish and for Kings Park. The parade typically steps off at the corner of Lou Avenue and Pulaski Road, continues down Main Street, turns onto Church Street, and ends down Old Dock Road at the William T. Rogers Middle School.
Kevin Johnston, a teacher from Kings Park and longtime member of the community, has worked on the parade’s committee and said a key to the parade’s success has been its year round effort. Within two weeks of the final march down Main Street, Johnston said the committee gets right back to work to start planning for the next year’s events, including the now-coveted grand marshal ball, which announces the grand marshal and celebrates the coming year’s event. All the hard work, he said, was a testament to how special Kings Park was to those who lived there.
“There’s something about Kings Park that one just can’t leave,” he said. “My wife and I were drawn to it for the small town feeling we got. Everybody helps each other out.”
And that’s why this year, Denis and Johnston said, Creighton was selected — because of his work with the parade committee since its founding in 2011 as well as his service to the town, having served on the Town Board from his 2007 election through 2015.
“He’s a great guy and he’s always been there for me,” Denis said of Creighton. “He’s always been there for the committee. I believe he deserves it.”
As for Creighton, the honor was not taken lightly. In an interview, Creighton told The Times of Smithtown that he was proud of being Irish and just as proud to be a Smithtown resident.
“It’s a genuine honor for me,” he said. “Kings Park is a very Irish town and I’m very much into my Irish heritage.”
Creighton moved to Kings Park in 1958 after serving in the United States Navy for three years, where he started a family and became active in his community. He has since held various jobs across the Island, including those at the United States Post Office in Kings Park, where he worked until he was appointed to the newly formed Suffolk County Police Department in 1961. He worked a successful 20 years with the department across several different titles, including Suffolk County police commissioner and chief investigator for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.
Creighton’s wife Geraldine was honored as the parade’s grand marshal two years ago, which the former councilman said was also an immense honor. And because of the parade’s consistent collaboration and support, Creighton said he planned on paying his role as grand marshal the utmost respect.
“I’m going to really do it up,” Creighton joked. “I’m doing the tie and tails, the top hat, you name it. I’m going to enjoy every bit of it.”
Unlike other longer parades, Creighton said Kings Park kept it short and sweet, but full of both quality and quantity. With less than one mile of parade route to walk, he said, bands and organizations from far and wide have enjoyed traveling out to Kings Park to participate.
“The bands want to come back,” he said. “They ask us to invite them back because this town is a great town. It’s a nice reflection of greater Smithtown and the Irish heritage here.”