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St. Patrick’s Day

File photo by Bob Savage

After a two year hiatus brought on by COVID 19 restrictions and mandates, The Friends of St. Patrick will resume a springtime tradition by hosting the 70th annual Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 13 starting at 1 p.m. sharp. This year the committee has named all former Grand Marshals to be Grand Marshals at this year’s parade. 

“North Shore residents have been cooped up and socially distanced for two long years now. It is time to break free and come out and celebrate with your community in this annual rite of spring. Pipe bands, fire trucks, dancers and marchers promise to lift all our spirits,” said a press release.

In lieu of naming a Queen and her Court, the Friends of St. Patrick have begun a scholarship fund for our local high schools. This year’s winner of a $1,000 scholarship is Alexa Zichinelli from Miller Place High School. Alexa wrote an essay on Irish history and lore inspired by her great-great Grandma, Mary Margaret McArdle from County Clare.

Alexa will be studying pre-med in college and is an active athlete, musician, tutor and volunteer. She aspires to become a surgeon and be a part of Doctor Without Borders.

For further information please visit their website at www.friendsofsaintpatrick.com or call 631-473-5100.

Michael Faughnan stands outside the AOH Div. 9 hall where he gives free bagpipe lessons. Photo by Jim Hastings

Come one, come all to the Ancient Order of Hibernians Div. 9 hall at 172 North Country Road in Mount Sinai. People from around the area are being treated each Sunday to free lessons in the centuries-old art of playing the bagpipes by prominent local piper Michael Faughnan.

It all began in the Fall of 2021 when the famed New York Metro pipe band founding member and instructor for the Nassau County Police Emerald Society Pipe Band contacted Div. 9’s Dan Sharkey and Brian Nealis to gauge their interest in an instructional program. 

“I wanted to give back, so I reached out to the Hibernians in Mount Sinai where I live and told them that with COVID and all the activities I’m involved in being on pause, if there’s any interest in learning to play, then to let me know,” Faughnan said. “Dan Sharkey and Brian Nealis have their finger on the pulse there and the organization wants to give back to the community. That’s why I wanted to help.” 

For many, a check off their bucket list

Whether they were first-timers, second-timers, or old-timers, attendees at this Sunday’s lesson all came for a common reason: To learn a bit about the instrument that’s been calling to them for years. As they gathered around the table with practice pipes known as chanters in hand, Faughnan began to teach them. He showed them how to properly hold the instrument, where to place their fingers and how to blow. First in unison, then solo, then in pairs. 

Long-time Hibernians, Mike Lane from Miller Place and Mike Drennan of Selden always had an interest in bagpipes. “We’d been involved in going to the parades for years,” said Lane, who had been taking the class since the beginning. “It was kind of a bucket list thing to try. And then Mike Faughnan got in touch with us.”

Drennan said this was his first time holding the chanter. He laughed when relaying what his daughter had said to him: “Dad, I love you, but I don’t think you can do it.” Drennan’s reply? “Challenge accepted.”

Teacher and jazz musician Charlie Buonasera takes up his chanter. Photo by Jim Hastings

Charlie Buonasera, a jazz musician from Coram who teaches in the Bronx, had been given a chanter years earlier while bartending at an Irish pub during college but never actually attempted to play it until he saw the flyer. “I have this chanter sitting here so why not?” he said. “It’s been fun so far. It’s just something I wanted to pick up, to show off maybe.”

“It takes over a year working on the practice chanter to learn the finger work needed to play music before actually starting to work on the bagpipes,” said Tom Lamb, a piper who started coming to the meetings to strengthen his fundamentals. “It’s very encouraging to see the progress being made with people who are just starting to learn. We have a few people already starting on the bagpipe, which is not a cheap instrument to buy.”

Lamb said that bagpipes are an expensive hobby. Each instrument costs between $1,000 and $3,000. The rest of the uniform, including a kilt, can run up to $1,500.

The goal for many in the group is to get to a level where they can perform during next year’s St. Patrick’s Day season, but for others it’s a chance to experience something they’d always thought about.

Larry Fischer from Miller Place started a few weeks ago after noticing the ad at his firehouse. “I always thought I’d like to learn to play the bagpipes,” he said. “Everybody kind of laughed at me, but I saw the ad and I came down.”

Librarian Kerry Crovello gets fingers-on instruction from Michael Faughnan. Photo by Jim Hastings

“I love the bagpipes and always watched the parades,” said Toni Kaste, a fiddle player from Eastport. “It was on my bucket list of things to do.”

“I always wanted to play,” said Kerry Crovello, a librarian from Port Jefferson. “I’d been to Ireland — and can’t wait to go back. I had a friend from years ago who built his own bagpipes and it always stuck in my mind. And then I saw the flyer.”

Dan Cavanaugh from East Setauket came because of his grandson. “I wanted to keep up,” he said. “He decided to try and learn the bagpipes — something I’d thought about for years. So, it spurred me to go try and learn.” 

Who are the AOH?

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is America’s oldest Irish Catholic fraternal organization. It was founded in 1836 to help Irish immigrants arriving in the U.S. It has divisions all over the country and continues to support and promote Irish culture through civic participation in charitable causes.

Div. 9’s Mike Lane, on right, shows his fellow Hibernian Mike Drennan where to place his fingers on the chanter. Photo by Jim Hastings

Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 9 Port Jefferson NY, its official name, is a smaller group than others by comparison, but according to Faughnan, their heart is just as big. He hopes that with programs like his and others, their outlet can grow and they can build on their mission to continue doing good while supporting Irish culture.

According to Faughnan, his Sunday sessions aren’t so much a class but more of a club. So, if you want to join the club, send an email to [email protected], or call Dan Sharkey at 631-922-0151.

Spotlight on Michael Faughnan

The 61-year-old father of 3 from Mount Sinai has spent his life playing the bagpipes — casually and competitively. He ran a program in Babylon at the Ancient Order of Hibernians for over 20 years with the Saffron Kilts Pipe Band, which had over 100 players in the organization and competed all over the world and performed at many high-profile events and venues, including at the White House. 

Faughnan took a step back from performing after having his children. In 2010, his students started a band in New York City called New York Metro Pipe Band. He soon joined in as a founding member without the pressure of being the pipe major. They were joined by top tier bagpipers from all around the area and eventually traveled to Scotland where they won the world championship. They’ve been consistent winners at contests in the U.S., Canada and Scotland. 

Michael Faughnan demonstrates the proper finger and blowing techniques on his bagpipe practice chanter. Photo by Jim Hastings

At 8 years old, Faughnan and his siblings were introduced to the bagpipes by world champion Scottish bagpiper Stewart Robertson, whom his parents knew, and their lives were changed forever.

“We were kids. We didn’t know any better,” he said in reference to playing the pipes during his childhood. “We went with the flow and enjoyed the journey and thought it was normal until you looked back and realized there weren’t a lot of other kids doing that. We traveled, competed, experienced success and got in front of people to entertain, building confidence at every step — all traits that help out in every aspect of life.” 

“It’s gotten me everywhere — playing the bagpipe and being good at it,” said Faughnan. “It got me a scholarship to Iona College where I was pipe major from 1978-1982. I got my career as an investment banker through playing the bagpipes.”

It also gave him the chance to record music in the studio, both with his band on their own albums, and as a studio musician for such famed artists as Van Morrison, Sting, Clannad and The Chieftains. To challenge himself, Faughnan joined a high-end band in Ireland. Working remotely in investment banking allows him to travel back and forth regularly. “I’ve been practicing with the band 2 or 3 times a week every other month for the last year just to compete this summer in the tournaments in Ireland and Scotland.”

Faughnan is involved with many bands in the New York tri state area. “They’ll hire me as a coach to come in and work on different things to help them sound better, to play in unison and to grow as musicians,” he said. “While not every band has the same musical expertise, it’s great to see them out there. They’re doing it because of their passion.”

He’s also busy playing and rehearsing with New York Metro Pipe Band in preparation for competing in Montreal at the North American Championships; the World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland; and the All-Irelands in Dublin. They will be performing on the Fox & Friends morning program on Saint Patrick’s Day. Faughnan himself can be found playing solo on March 19 at Peconic County Brewing in Riverhead at 3 p.m. and Port Bistro & Pub in Port Jefferson at 5 p.m.

St. Patrick's Day sandwiches

Make Your St. Patrick’s Day Spread Green with Envy

 (Culinary.net) Freshen up your St. Patrick’s Day menu with easy, light sandwiches inspired by the traditional color of the festivities. These open-faced noshes can be perfect for lunch, snack time or even as an appetizer for get-togethers with friends and family.

Layered with a smooth cream cheese and mozzarella mixture then topped with crisp cucumber and a stem of green bell pepper, these St. Patrick’s Day Sandwiches are easy and cute, which makes them a fan favorite at nearly any green gathering. They’re also sprinkled with lemon juice to add a little acidity and create a nice, light bite.

Plus, this recipe is quick to make. When you’re in a rush to get everything on the table for the party, it’s easy to throw together and get on the platter in next to no time.

The sandwiches pop off the plate with their bright, seasonal garnishes. While sure to attract attention and have your loved ones asking “Where did you get this idea?” they’re also an easy way to sneak a few vegetables into your kids’ diets.

For more festive recipes and ideas at Culinary.net.

 St. Patrick’s Day Sandwiches

Yield: 8 sandwiches

Ingredients:

8 ounces plain cream cheese spread, softened

1 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese

salt

4  English muffins

24 slices cucumber

8 thin slices green pepper

fresh cilantro leaves

lemon juice

lemon slices, for garnish (optional)

Directions: 

In bowl, mix cream cheese spread, mozzarella cheese and salt well.

Split English muffins in half. Cut each muffin half into shamrock shape.

Spread cheese mixture over each muffin half.

Place three cucumbers on each “shamrock,” one on each “leaf.” Use green pepper slice as stem. Place cilantro leaf on top of each sandwich.

Sprinkle sandwiches with lemon juice and add lemon slices, for garnish, if desired.

See video here.

It was a great day for those with Irish spirit March 13 as the St. James Chamber of Commerce hosted a car parade where dozens of business owners traveled in their vehicles through the streets of the hamlet to wish everyone an early happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Kerry Maher-Weisse, parade director, chamber member and president of the Community Association of St. James, said parade organizers were caught off guard last year as they received news a few days before the 2020 parade that it could not be held due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

While New York State guidelines still don’t allow for a traditional parade, Maher-Weisse said the parade organizers felt something needed to be done to bring back some kind of normalcy to the hamlet. She said they decided on a car parade with a route that would go through various streets to keep spectators spread out.

“We don’t want to keep on losing the aspect of community, and this meant saying it’s okay to come out with a mask and to reinstate that we can go back to normal or somewhat of a new norm,” she said.

This year the grand marshal was not an individual but all St. James residents, Maher-Weisse said. The decision was to honor how neighbors and business owners came together to help each other during the pandemic. The parade director said an example was Norman Keil Nurseries delivering free pansies to everyone in St. James last spring. She said it may be something that seems small but raised spirits.

“We pulled together as neighbors, businesses, residents and families,” she said.

When talking about Ireland and its culture and symbolism, many different images come to mind. Affectionately known as the Emerald Isle, Ireland is perhaps best known for its bright green hue. Irish flags and even harps are symbolic of the nation, but there is perhaps one symbol that most widely represents the country: the shamrock. 

A shamrock, by definition, is a young sprig of clover. However, plant experts actually have said that shamrocks are a distinct species of the clover plant, believed to be the white clover. The word “shamrock” is derived from the Irish “seamróg,” which translates as “young clover.” Over the centuries, this diminutive plant has come to symbolize Ireland and many things Irish. The shamrock also is a popular symbol of St. Patrick’s Day. 

The shamrock and Irish culture are so intertwined thanks to Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick. Legends attest to St. Patrick using the three petals of the shamrock to illustrate the mysteries of the Holy Trinity to the Celtic pagans. Each leaf represented the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The shamrock of Ireland has three leaves, not four as many people believe. The number three had significance in Ireland long before St. Patrick began to convert the masses. According to Blarney.com, the number three was believed to have magical properties and was a recurring theme in Celtic folklore. Because the Celts were familiar with the shamrock, it became easy to convert their knowledge of the shamrock to the magic of the trinity. The three leaves are also said to stand for faith, hope and love. 

The four-leaf clover is a separate entity and a rarity. That is why the fourth leaf is deemed to be “lucky.” But that lucky clover is not the traditional Irish symbol.

Thanks to their connection with Ireland, shamrocks are often gifted by the Prime Minister (Taoiseach) to the President of the United States in the White House each St. Patrick’s Day. They are presented in a special Waterford crystal bowl featuring shamrocks in the design. This practice started in 1952.

Shamrocks also can be seen on Irish clothing designs, the Erin go Bragh flag and the uniforms of several Irish sports teams. Of course they also are seen during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The shamrock and Ireland will always be linked. 

Recipe courtesy of Family Features

It’s your lucky day because you don’t have to search for the pot of gold under the rainbow for this winning recipe. Throw out the old Irish classics and sweeten things up this year with some mint chocolate chip fun.  If you’re in a crunch for St. Patrick’s Day and need something glowing with green, here is a dessert that is sure to have everyone coming back for seconds (and more).

These Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies are as green as four-leaf clovers and have delicious chocolate chips mixed throughout for some extra sweet flavor. Served beside a big glass of milk, they are perfect treats for any St. Patrick’s Day party or virtual gathering.

To start the recipe, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, add butter, sugar, eggs, green food coloring and peppermint extract for that crisp mint flavor. Beat with a hand mixture and combine the ingredients in both bowls together.

Add chocolate chips to the mixed cookie batter. Scoop onto a baking sheet and bake at 375 F for 11-24 minutes until the edges of the cookies are light brown. Cool on a wire rack before devouring.

With so much mixing and scooping to be done, this is a great recipe for kids to get involved in the kitchen, too. One of the  best parts is the eye-catching color. Watch children’s smiling little faces as the batter turns from light brown to dark green for a priceless reaction.

After being perfectly baked, these cookies are bright, fun and will be the hit of any celebration. Soft in the middle, a little crisp on the edges and as green as can be. You can’t ask for much more on St. Patrick’s Day.

Find more recipes, celebration ideas and dessert favorites for every occasion at Culinary.net.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Servings: 24-32
Ingredients:

2 1/2    cups flour

1          teaspoon baking soda

1/2       teaspoon salt

1          cup butter, softened

1 1/4    cups sugar

2          eggs

30        drops green food coloring

1          teaspoon peppermint extract

1          package (12 ounces) chocolate chips

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 F. In large bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt until blended. Set aside. In medium bowl, beat butter and sugar until combined. Add eggs, food coloring and peppermint extract; beat until combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients; beat until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto baking sheet. Bake 11-14 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

See the video here:

METRO photo

Part of what makes celebrating St. Patrick’s Day so enjoyable is the scores of traditions surrounding the holiday. The month of March ushers in parades, festive foods, lively music, and as much green attire as a person can handle.

As ubiquitous as it is each March, green attire has not always been symbolic of St. Patrick’s Day or Ireland. In fact, earlier depictions of St. Patrick had him royally clothed in a rich shade of blue. Some ancient Irish flags even sported the color blue. According to National Geographic, the color green became associated with St. Patrick’s Day in the 18th century, when the shamrock became a national symbol of Ireland. The color of the shamrock and Ireland’s natural landscape forever linked green to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and the Emerald Isle.

There are reasons for donning green clothing on St. Patrick’s Day. If a person isn’t in green, he or she just may get pinched. According to Irish folklore, leprechauns wore green, and if anyone else wore the color that individual would be invisible to leprechauns. Leprechauns are ornery sorts who like to pinch anyone they can see. Therefore, by wearing green clothing, a person is sure to avoid a painful tweak. It’s not only the leprechauns who might do the pinching. Celebrants are inclined to pinch people who don’t wear green as a reminder that leprechauns might sneak up on them at any time.

Beyond shamrocks and leprechauns, other people are inclined to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day as a symbol of good luck and to honor their Irish ancestry. According to Brian Witt, the cultural exhibits coordinator for Milwaukee Irish fest, Irish Americans would wear green as a reminder that they are nationalists first and foremost. The Irish flag colors are green, white and orange. The green symbolizes Irish nationalism, the orange represents the “Orangemen” of Northern Ireland, which is an Irish Protestant political society, and the white symbolizes peace. 

Green is an integral color during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and it is tied to many different traditions.

Mint Brownies

Lucky Mint Brownie Perfection

Courtesy of Family Features

How lucky you must be to come across this recipe just in time for St. Patrick’s Day! This one is a twisted combination of mint and sweet chocolate that’s sure to have almost anyone’s taste buds screaming “yum.” This dessert might just be the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow this year.

These Mint Brownies have three delicious layers. First, a supreme brownie on bottom. Then a fluffy, green mint layer that’s full of flavor and color. Last, but definitely not least, a chocolate layer on top made with chocolate chips, butter and a little whipping cream.

All of these layers create a smooth, sweet, minty, bite-sized dessert perfect for any occasion but especially St. Patrick’s Day. The green mint color really pops off the plate, giving it some extra flare and an appetizing glow.

Mint Brownies

Servings: 9-12
Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray

1 box supreme brownie mix with chocolate syrup pouch

3 tablespoons water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

Filling:

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup whipping cream

5 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

5 drops green food color

Topping:

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 bag (12 ounces) chocolate chips

1/2 cup butter

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 F.

Spray 8-by-8-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In large bowl, mix brownie mix, water, oil and egg until combined. Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake 35 minutes. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

To make filling: In large bowl, beat powdered sugar, butter, whipping cream, cream cheese, peppermint extract and food coloring. Spread over cooled brownies. Refrigerate 1 hour, or until set.

To make topping: In saucepan, melt whipping cream, chocolate chips and butter until smooth. Cool until lukewarm, about 10 minutes. Pour over filling; spread to cover. Refrigerate 2 hours, or until set.

Before serving, let brownies set 10 minutes at room temperature.

Tips: Cut brownies with wet knife for cleaner cuts. Store covered in refrigerator.

Visitors to a Stony Brook bar and restaurant were looking for more than food and drink March 15, they were aiming to help out a good cause.

The Bench hosted a St. Baldrick’s Day fundraiser Sunday where participants got their heads shaved to raise funds for childhood cancer research. Lead organizer Christopher Pollina said with donations and a company match, participants surpassed the total event goal of $20,000.

According to the organizer the nonprofit group Three Village Dads raised more than half of that amount, and its foundation donated an additional $1,000.

Rob Meo raised the highest amount of the day with $5,000. During the event, Boy Scout troops 70 and 427, both from Setauket, stopped by to have their heads shaved by Amanda Bellavance of Dapper Cuts Barbershop and donate funds. Music was provided by Mike Rutowitcz of Sound’s Alive Entertainment.

Pollina and co-organizer Scott Montekew were pleased with the results from the second annual event at The Bench.

“We topped last year’s $12,500 raised, even during this trying time of COVID-19,” Pollina said.

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Every 10 years, the people at the head of the annual Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade honor all the past community members who were lucky enough to be named grand marshal.

As the annual parade looks down the barrel of its 70th anniversary, the people who run the second oldest parade in Suffolk County have the task of respecting the past while looking to continue its run into the future.

The Friends of St. Patrick, a group of volunteers who have helped put on the parade for the last seven decades, hosted its third annual Luck of the Irish Casino Night March 6. During the group’s biggest yearly fundraiser, members said they were not only acknowledging the past, but trying to look toward the future.  

“It costs about $40,000 to put this parade on, so fundraisers like this really help.”

— Hugh McCarrick

Unlike previous years when members would nominate a queen and her court, along with a grand marshal, this year members announced instead they would be supporting a local student with a $1,000 scholarship. 

“The applications for [the queen and her court] were going way down, and we were seeing it as sort of a bygone era,” said James McElhone, the recently installed treasurer of the Friends of St. Patrick. “We decided to make it a scholarship that would be rotating between several local high schools to encourage people to write an essay on their Irish heritage.”

This year, Alexa Zichinelli, a senior at Miller Place High School, won with her essay about her Irish heritage, particularly of her great grandmother on her father’s side who came from Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine. 

Her grandmother often talks about that history, of when her own mother was in County Clare in Ireland. Zichinelli wrote about the Irish folklore her grandmother loves to talk about, along with the family she left behind.

“Going to where my great-grandmother was from in Ireland, she lived by these rocks that she described looked over a cliff, so it was just kind of magic, where she was from,” she said.

Zichinelli said she will put the scholarship to use, as she intends to go to college for premed, particularly on the path toward being a pediatric heart surgeon. 

Those who have been grand marshal in the past see the parade differently than most. It’s a tradition, yes, but it’s also been a way to celebrate and even define the North Shore communities along the Route 25A corridor. With 70 years of history, grand marshals have included noted community members like state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who was named grand marshal in 1989.

One family sticks out among those in the Rocky Point area. The McCarrick family owns property in the Rocky Point shopping district that once included the famed McCarrick’s Dairy before it closed in 2017 and later became a 7/11. Hugh McCarrick, one of the officers of the Friends of St. Patrick, said nine separate members of the McCarrick clan have been named grand marshal over the years. He and his brother Kevin, along with a slew of other past marshals, were both honored at the casino night March 6.

“Seventy means a tremendous amount.”

— Walter Colleran

Hugh McCarrick, who was named grand marshal in 1997, said going forward the objective is to make the parade more interesting every year, but with around 85 units in the parade this year, he added they are going strong. He thanked East Wind for hosting the fundraiser, which is easily its biggest of the year.

“It costs about $40,000 to put this parade on, so fundraisers like this really help,” he said.

Mike Tatilian, a grand marshal in 2015 and past president of the Friends of St. Patrick, said times have changed and they are always trying to bring in flesh blood to help out. Nothing else says that times have changed in seven decades than the number of St. Patrick’s Day parades around Suffolk County. While the Huntington parade is in its 86th year, hamlets like Kings Park and Jamesport are celebrating only their 10th and seventh years, respectively, of the annual parade. Tatilian said they’re always trying to compete for spectators, of which the MP-RP parade usually gets 25,000-30,000 along its 3-mile run. 

“There’s competition — you’re competing for fans,” he said. “When there used to be a few parades, now there’s many.”

Walter Colleran was named grand marshal in 2013 and said 70 years means a lot to a parade, also helping to display how its changed.

“Seventy means a tremendous amount — [the parade] started out years ago as an opportunity for everybody to hang out on the street and drink beer, but over the years it’s turned into a very family-oriented affair.”