On The Beach
With Beverly Baxter
The Legacy Marches On …
On behalf of the Queens County Saint Patrick’s Day Parade and Cultural Committee, I bid you a warm failte (one hundred thousand welcomes) on the auspicious ocassion of this, our 31st annual parade.
We will march forth on March 4th in honor of Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, and in celebration of the triumphs and achievements of the Irish people. The day’s festivities will begin with a 9 AM mass for Peace and Justice in Northern Ireland at Saint Frances de Sales Church. The mass will be followed by an invitation-only breakfast at The Beach Club for honorees, their guests, parade committee members and dignitaries.
The parade will then step off promptly at 1 p.m. from Newport Avenue and Beach 129 Street. Renowned singers David Lee and Margaret Barrett will perform the American and Irish National Anthems and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will cut the tri-color ribbon commencing our parade. The parade will proceed east to Beach 116 Street where it will turn right and move south to the boulevard. It will turn left and continue east through the heart of “Irishtown” along James Conway Sullivan Boulevard, named for our beloved Parade Founder. The parade route will end at the Reviewing Stand at Beach 94 Street. Immediately following the parade, there will be a public post-reception at Saint Rose of Lima Church where the winners of the Best Bands and Marching Units, as well as winners of the 500 Club 50/50 and Scholarship Awards will be announced.
While the parade is in honor of Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, it is as a celebration of the Irish culture and the triumphs over great adversities of its people. In fact, the notion of a parade or any public display of Irish culture was an interdiction in all of Ireland. The Irish were forbidden to speak in their own native Gaelic language, own their own land, they were not allowed to be educated except in secrecy behind “Hedgerow Schools” and Catholic priests were hunted
for the handsome price their heads would yield. The forced emigration and diaspora of the Irish to foreign lands where they were met with “Irish Need Not Apply” emboldened them more to persevere and prevail.
In many ways, our parade’s humble beginnings mirror that of the Irish people’s triumphs over much adversities. The story of our parade is secured in Rockaway-lore. Although the newspaper of the day ridiculed the parade, referring to it as “Sullivan’s Follies”, Jimmy set out, with his mother, sister, brothers, a fife, a drum, a makeshift banner and Tom Touhey in tow and began a legacy that continues to boast the distinction of being the 2nd largest parade in the State of New York.
Each year, the committee of fifty members under the leadership of parade President Mike Benn, vote to honor certain individuals who have distinguished themselves through the endeavors of their lives. They hail from the height of Labor, Criminal Justice, Politics, Civil Service, Medicine, Sports, Banking, Civic Activism, Education, Music and Journalism; areas in which the Irish are noted to excell. They are: Thomas Ryan, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 74, S.E.I.U., who will lead our 31st parade as Grand Marshal; former 100 Precinct Captain Inspector Michael Morley will march as our James Conway Sullivan Gael of the Year; and our Honorary Grand Marshals are the honorable Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo and Kelly Casey, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Crimes Against Children Bureau of the Brooklyn D.A.’s office.
Our Deputy Grand Marshals include a roster of locals who continue to make us proud on a daily basis. They are: Ed Shevlin, III, Ed O’Hare, John McManus, Anne McGovern, Erin Baumann, Dr. Timothy Rohrs, Mary Rooney, John Duddy and Thomas Flood. This parade also marks the last that we will have the beloved Monsignor Geraghty and Father Peter Gillen in service to our community. Monsignor Geraghty’s eloquent masses each year have been extraordinary in setting the tone for the past eighteen parade seasons.
His presence each year, either watching, marching, or riding on the back of a Harley donned in an Aran sweater and Cobeen. Father Peter Gillen, always personifying the spirit of Failte as he welcomed parade participants on the steps of Saint Rose, will be sorely missed. Both of these spiritual icons will be presented with a special Community Service Award.
Of course, parades and politics go together like the fife and drum and marching with us this year along with Mayor Bloomberg will be Diarmuid Scully, Mayor of Limerick and Tim O’Connor, Deputy Consul General, who will be hosting a reception on the eve of our parade at the Irish Consulate for five City Councilmembers and invited guests. Also expected to march is Christine Quinn, the newly elected NYC Council Speaker, elected officials, John Dunleavy, Chairman of the Fifth Avenue parade, and former Grand Marshals Mae O’Driscoll and Cathy Miscelli, this year’s Grand Marshal in the Brooklyn parade. According to Parade President Mike Benn, “ It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to our 31st annual parade. If you are unable to attend, you can still watch our delayed web-cast or on An Suil na Gael on Public Access TV.”
***Rockaway will be treated to a special sporting event as the Irish Rugby team competes against the Rockaway Fish Heads on the green at Riis Park on the morning of the parade.
***Deputy Grand Marshal John Duddy, an Irish Boxing legend, will compete with James Moore for the Welter-Weight Championship on March 16th at Madison Square Garden.
***Congratulations to the Benn Family on the engagement of their son Brendan to Valerie Frank. The romantic Mr. Benn hired a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park where he proposed in front of the ice-skating rink.
***Congratulations to Deputy Grand Marshal Ed Shevlin III on his engagement to the vivacious Kathryn Daly. The couple will be married at Saint Frances de Sales on April 30.
***Happy Birthday to...all of you!: Mary Dever Kelly, SR. Peggy, Tom Lynch, Brenda Flynn and Ben Lenihan! See you....at the parade!