Oyster Bay has its oyster festival, Riverhead its Polish fair, but in Rockville Centre it's the wearing of the green that draws the crowds for a day of fun.
Saturday's 15th annual St. Patrick's Parade is expected to draw tens of thousands of green-clad spectators to village streets. Afterward, the celebration continues in village pubs and restaurants where Irish specialties are set on the table, and bagpipe music and hospitality fill the air.
If you can't wait for the Rockville Centre parade, the village also hums with bagpipes and conviviality on St. Patrick's Day itself. Pipers from the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade often arrive in the village, says Patrick Kerley of Cannon's Blackthorn Irish Pub and Restaurant. The pipers are expected to arrive at Cannon's Blackthorn at about 3 p.m. They'll "warm up on the backyard patio bar and then come in and play," Kerley says.
AN IRISH-AMERICAN MAGNET
Why is Rockville Centre so cozy with Ireland?
"Rockville Centre is the heart of the Irish community on Long Island," says Margarita Fox, president of the Rockville Centre Chamber of Commerce. Many Irish- Americans live in the community, including families that can trace their local Irish roots back five generations. Fox adds that some of these families live near the Cathedral of St. Agnes, the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, which is located in the village.
Although the Rockville Centre parade is comparatively new -- the 15th annual compared with the 250-year-old march in New York City -- it's the second-largest parade in New York, says parade manager Keely Collins.
"For the past seven years, there have been well over 10,000 to 15,000 spectators on the parade route," Collins says.
Saturday's parade features 103 groups, including step-dancers from Long Island Irish Schools of dance, and bagpipe bands. Marching bands from St. Dominic's in Oyster Bay and Hempstead High School and cheerleaders from Valley Stream will perform. Also part of the parade: the New York Jets Flight Crew cheerleaders, Islanders' mascot Sparky the Dragon, vintage Cadillacs and a horse-drawn carriage.
You don't have to be Irish to march or enjoy it all.
"It's a very diverse parade," Fox says.
A TASTE OF IRELAND
Post-parade, the action shifts to shops, pubs and restaurants, where you can help yourself to a bit of the Emerald Isle. Among the local businesses is Kathleen's of Donegal Irish Imports, which sells authentic gifts and clothing.
R.J. Daniels will be serving corned beef, cabbage and Irish potatoes, as it has been doing during the whole month of March, says bartender Peter Kurrus. The salt-cured meat is also served on rye. "It's thinly sliced and juicy," Kurrus adds.
Beyond corned beef, you can find other Irish favorites, such as fish and chips, chicken potpie, shepherd's pie, beer-battered cod, and bangers and mash (sausage and potatoes).
Naturally, a St. Paddy's celebration wouldn't be the same without Guinness Stout. The village boasts seven Irish-style pubs among its 15 bars. One such place is Monaghan's, where Gunn serves Guinness Draught with the traditional double pour, which takes about 120 seconds.
St. Patrick's Day specials
49 N. Village Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-594-1222, cannonsblackthornli.com
Bagpipers are expected about 3 p.m. Special dinner menu includes three-course prix fixe for $18.95.
7 S. Park Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-764-0470, croxley.com
Complimentary corned beef and cabbage buffet begins at 4 p.m.
Steps off at noon from Long Beach Road and Maple Avenue, proceeds west on Maple, north on North Park Avenue, west on College Place, west on Quealey Place, ending at St. Agnes Cathedral.
210 Merrick Rd., Rockville Centre, 516-442-2600, mcfaddensrvc.com
Parade specials include $2 corned beef sliders all day and live music beginning at 3 p.m.