Participants and paradegoers alike reveled Sunday in Huntington's 80th St. Patrick's Day celebration -- the oldest and largest of its kind on Long Island -- with their cultural heritage and ancestry on their minds.
The procession -- which started on New York Avenue and continued for 21/4 miles -- slowly made its way down Main Street in Huntington with sirens blaring and Irish flags waving, as thousands of people packed the sidewalks along the metal barricades that lined the street.
Some pockets were up to 10 rows deep with spectators wearing green attire that included leprechaun hats and wigs, and green sweaters on their pooches.
Mickey Church, 59, a nurse from Southold, nestled into a spot at the parade's turn onto Main Street with her husband and her daughter's family.
"My great-grandfather immigrated from Dublin when he was 18 and settled into Brooklyn, where he met my great-grandmother," Church said while holding her 2-year-old grandson, George Thomas. "He was a McCormack. St. Patrick's Day is considered one of the best holidays of the year in my family. It's always been very important. Our Irish culture has a deep significance to us."
Sixty local groups -- including fire companies, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts -- and 22 bands, 18 of which were bagpipe bands, marched the parade route. It was one of the largest participations of the event's history.
Timothy Kearney, 74, of Lynbrook, led the parade with the Clann Eireann pipe band, which his father, Frank W. Kearney, started in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, in 1930.
The group has marched in all 80 of the Huntington St. Patrick's Day parades, said Kearney, who was wearing a 40-year-old green kilt and black tunic made by his father, who was also a master tailor.
"We've been here since day one, and no other bagpipe band can say that," Kearney said.
His father died at the age of 91 in 2001, Kearney said.
"He left the legacy to me, and I kept going," Kearney said. "I remember all the 60 years I marched along with my father. This is for him."
Dating back to 1930, the parade has grown and now costs about $50,000 to run -- all of which is privately funded, organizers said. Hosted by Huntington Ancient Order of Hibernians, it attracts about 50,000 spectators annually.
Dominick Feeney Jr. of Melville, whose family has been Huntington residents for six generations, was the grand marshal.
"It's gone wonderfully," Feeney said at the parade's end. "I'm sure my grandfather is smiling from above."