2003-03-01 / Columnists

On The Beach

With Beverly Baxter
These Irish Things Remind Me Of You (Dedicated to Parade Founder James Conway Sullivan)

With Beverly Baxter
These Irish Things Remind Me Of You
(Dedicated to Parade Founder James Conway Sullivan)

The winds of March that make my heart a step dancer. Belfast still screams, but who's to answer; yet still the cause has wings-These Irish things remind me of you.

The Tri-color flag, how proudly it waves-

Our honorees, exemplify all that Erin braves.

These Irish things remind me of you.

Ed "Shevy" Shevlin and Dr. Peter too, with their fife and drum; Oh James Conway Sullivan, what have you done! Of your heritage you were so proud and so true; This glorious parade reminds me of you.

The blazing chants of The Wolftones from the pubs inside.

No longer do the Irish need not apply.

March gallant men! Because unlike then, now you can.

These Irish things remind me of you.

You came, you sought, you said for the Irish in Rockaway, this day had to be-How this day seems to bring you near to me.

And oh how your memory still clings-These Irish things remind me of you.

Well, the drums will do bang, the cymbals will clang, and the horns they will blaze away! And with all the pomp and pageantry, our glorious parade will come through our town. On behalf of The James Conway Sullivan Queens County St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee, I bid you all a warm Cead Mile Failte on this occasion of our 28th annual parade! This year, we present a distinguished slate of honorees who hail from the heights of Labor, Business, Broadcast Journalism, Sports, Politics, Civil Service, Medicine, and Education-all areas of endeavor in which the Irish are so noted to excel. Either through their deep commitment to their faith and heritage or through the work of their lives, our community is enhanced because of them.

Our Grand Marshal is James Cahill, International Representative for the NYS United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters. Our Female Grand Marshal, Treasa Smyth, is a renowned Radio personality. With her husband, Tommy Smyth, they host the radio show, Ireland Calls. Our Hon. Female Grand Marshal is the extraordinary Frances Abbracciamento who is a role model for both women and men from any faith or culture. Our Hon. Male Grand Marshal is Martin Kelly, an Executive with Verizon who is also the President of the NYS Ancient Order of Hibernians. We will honor as Gael of the Year Mr. James P. Supple, whom many regard as "The Mayor of Rockaway"! Our Deputies, all exemplarity people in their own right are: Ed O'Grady, Mary O'Rourke, Patrick Russell, Steve Stathis, Bernard Cassidy, Tom Hughes, John Hennessey, James Kelly, Nadia Murphy, and Al Catanese. Congratulations! You all wear your honors sooo well!

Our Parade first began twenty-eight years ago as the brainchild of Jimmmy Sullivan, who fiercely felt that because there were so many Irish in Rockaway who couldn't venture into the city for the Fifth Avenue parade, that Rockaway deserved its own day of celebration. So, with a few makeshift banners, a couple of marching bands, and his mother, sister, brothers, and Tom Touhey in tow, Jimmy set out to create Rockaway's grandest day. Of course there were many who believed that it couldn't be done. In fact the local newspaper at the time quipped the effort and referred to it as "Sullivan's Folies"; but Jimmy, undeterred, kept marching along!

Today, our parade has swelled to its esteemed status as the second largest parade in New York State! Boasting a budget of nearly eighty thousand dollars, the parade renders many times that amount back into the community as thousands of people descend upon our shores for the big day. It's a banner day for local businesses from hardware stores as people prepare and adorn their homes to caterers and florists as many host parties, and of course, the pubs are filled to capacity!

Although it takes merely a few hours for the parade to make its way through our town, it takes an entire year and a committee of fifty members to get the parade back up the Blvd. to B. 129 Street where we begin again!

For me personally, it's all about the march! For hundreds of years, the Irish had to hide their heritage and their faith. Children were educated in secrecy behind "Hedgerow Schools", hunters captured Priests for the handsome bounty they would yield, and the Gaelic language was forbidden and nearly obliterated except in western remote areas of Connemara. The notion of a parade in honor of Ireland's Patron Saint was unheard of!

One need not be Irish to understand the oppression of a particular people; and how the spirit of the parade is really a stomping proud display of triumph over adversity.

So, as we step off, we will walk tall, with our heads held high, and hopefully with the winds at our back, and we will march....because we can!

***Happy Birthday wishes to our Gael of the Year, Jimmy Supple!

***Get well wishes to Mary Alice Lane. You are loved and you are missed.

See you...at the Parade!

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