St. James parade returns April 2 after three years’ absence

St. James parade returns April 2 after three years’ absence

The 2022 parade will be the first one in the hamlet to feature two grand marshals

The Robedee and Maher families donated Irish flags for the St. James St. Patrick's Day Parade. With the help of the town, they are now lining Lake Avenue in St. James. Photo from Kerry Weisse

This post is an updated version of The Times of Smithtown’s March 10 edition. Due to inclement weather, the St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been postponed from March 12 to April 2.

A decades-old favorite is about to return to St. James.

State Sen. Mario Mattera, second from right, takes time out for a photo with his fellow elected officials at the Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 5. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Hamlet residents were all set to celebrate the 36th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2020, when just a few days before it was to kickoff, COVID-19 mandates shut it and other activities like it down.

Once again, in 2021, the event couldn’t be held due to the lingering pandemic, and a car parade was held throughout St. James in its place. This year, events have been given the green light once again, and the parade, organized by the St. James Chamber of Commerce, will take place along Lake Avenue on April 2.

State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) and Kerry Reilly-DeJesus will finally be able to enjoy the honor of being joint grand marshals. The two were named for the 2020 parade, and it was the first time the St. James parade committee chose two grand marshals to lead the event.

Reilly-DeJesus, who works as a call center manager for Stony Brook University’s Southampton Hospital, said she was disappointed when the 2020 parade was canceled but wasn’t surprised.

“In the interest of public health, I think our town and our local government made the best decision to keep everybody safe,” she said. “I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed, of course, but did I support the decision? Absolutely. It was the best decision for the time.”

When Mattera was first named grand marshal, he wasn’t a state senator yet. Since he took office in January 2021, he has appeared at many community events, such as the Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 5. At that event, he said he was looking forward to the parade in St. James, where he and his family have lived for more than 25 years after he and his wife moved from Nesconset. 

Kerry Reilly-DeJesus with her husband, Ralph. Photo from Reilly-DeJesus

“People are getting out,” Mattera said. “It’s very exciting. I know it’s going to be four to five people deep on Lake Avenue. I’m just honored and privileged that we’re still continuing with the parade, and we’re going to have a great day.”

While Mattera isn’t of Irish descent, Terry, his wife of nearly 30 years, is. The couple has raised two daughters in the hamlet. Before becoming state senator, he was the business agent for Plumbers Local Union 200 of Ronkonkoma. In addition to his work with the union, he was a member of the Smithtown Executive Board representing St. James, and on the boards of Community Association of Greater St. James, the Suffolk County Water Authority and the Suffolk County Consumer Affairs Plumbing, Licensing and Fire Protection. He was also a Suffolk County Workforce Housing Committee member, the plumber’s union chairman for the political PAC fund for the county and board member for the New York State Apprenticeship and Training Council.

Reilly-DeJesus has lived in St. James for more than two decades, where she and her husband, Ralph, for over 25 years, have raised four children.

The wife and mother has always been active in the community and has taught religion at St. Philip and St. James R.C. Church. She has also been involved in the Smithtown Central School District as a family living chairperson working on food drives at Mills Pond Elementary School and was vice president of the PTA at the elementary school for two years. She later went on to serve as PTA president for two years. As her children advanced in the school district, so did Reilly-DeJesus. She was PTA president at Nesaquake Middle School for three years and then did the same for six years at Smithtown High School East’s PTA. She’s continued being part of the high school’s PTA even though all of her children have graduated and is currently helping with the organization’s upcoming fundraising fashion show.

Outside of religious instruction and the school district, Reilly-DeJesus said she has been a Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts leader for her children’s troops.

While Mattera has participated in past parades with the local car club, and DeJesus has marched with the Scouts, both said they are looking forward to finally being grand marshal.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Reilly-DeJesus said. “I’m really excited about it — that it’s finally coming to fruition.” 

Mattera has another reason to look forward to the role as he said he sees parades such as the ones in Smithtown as a sign of moving forward. 

“The atmosphere — even with the Kings Park parade — people are excited to get out with their families and the kids,” he said. “They get dressed up in green, all the Irish attire. It’s just about our families.”

Reilly-DeJesus agreed that it’s what the residents need.

“This is just what our little town needs to get us back into the communal spirit,” she said.

Mattera and Reilly-DeJesus will be joined by the parade’s princesses and princes of 2022 and those from the 2020 court who missed their chance to march that year. Parade committeeperson Kerry Maher Weisse said the organizers are excited, especially after the recent renovation of Lake Avenue. Weisse, who is part of the Maher family that owns the St. James Funeral Home, said the Mahers and the Robedee family of WBR Enterprises donated Irish flags for the parade and worked together with the Smithtown Highway Department to hang them along Lake Avenue.

On behalf of the St. James Chamber of Commerce, Weisse said, “We’re excited to celebrate the green and St. Paddy’s Day, and we’re excited to be out there for the residents, excited to be out there for the businesses.” 

The St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 2. Bands, Scouts, dance groups, fire trucks, antique cars and more will travel from the corner of Woodlawn and Lake avenues to the viewing stand by the Long Island Rail Road train station.