Several decades after its creation, the Friends of St. Patrick continue a 66-year-old tradition with its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Residents sported green clothing, face paint and accessories on Sunday, March 13, to celebrate the not-for-profit’s Miller Place-Rocky Point parade. Members of the Suffolk County police department, local fire departments and elected officials joined the queen and royal court, and other groups in the parade. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), New York State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) were among those who treked more than two miles down Route 25A, from the Flying Pig in Miller Place to Broadway in Rocky Point.
While the parade celebrated this Thursday’s St. Patrick’s Day, it is also a way to unite the community, said Grand Marshal and Friends of St. Patrick committee president John Barchi.
“Back in those days these houses were just summer rentals, so the regular population was locked up all winter,” Barchi said about the late 1940s and early 1950s. “[It was] like ‘where is everybody? Let’s get everybody out.’”
In light of long, dreary winters in the area, businessmen John Sullivan and George Faulkner founded the Friends of St. Patrick’s committee in 1949. The duo established the committee to come up with a way to draw people out of their homes after the winter.
Now tens of thousands of residents attend the celebration. Upwards of around 50,000 residents have attended the organization’s parades in the past. But the not-for-profit doesn’t only hold the parade. It also organizes fundraising events associated with the celebration, like the crowning of the royal court.
For Queen Samantha Wooley, of Rocky Point, and members of her royal court, Ladies Janice Pearson and Emma Sweeney, the experience was exciting.
“You’re really representing the town so everyone’s eyes are on you,” Wooley said.
Wooley added that being a member of the royal court means supporting the community and being a role model to little girls. The opportunity also allows them to try something new.
“You put yourself out of your comfort zone and it’s really special,” Sweeney added.
Although the parade’s first Queen, Peggy McKenna, used a historic 85-year-old carriage to ride down Broadway, this year’s royalty drove down Route 25A in a Mercedes Convertible.
While the area and various aspects of the celebration has changed since the first parade in 1950, over the past few years the event became Suffolk County’s largest and second oldest parade, according to the Friends of St. Patrick’s website.
Barchi, who has been a member of committee for the past 18 years, was grateful to be the Grand Marshal for this year’s parade.
“Working with a group of the most honest, loyal and dedicated individuals who put this project together year after year is nothing short of a great honor and privilege,” Barchi said in an article on the Friends of St. Patrick website. “Their commitment to this community event, and the camaraderie among us is truly unique.”