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Despite cold, Kings Park St. Patrick’s parade draws thousands

The snow flurries that flew just as the parade started Saturday, March 4, 2017, didn't discourage the crowd that turned out in Kings Park for Long Island's first St. Patrick's parade of 2017. Irish flags flew along the parade route that was lined with silly floats and law enforcement officers with breen beards and green ties.  Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman

The cold was no deterrence Saturday afternoon for Kings Park residents, who lined the streets of their hamlet to watch its seventh annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.

More than 100 organizations marched in the celebration of Irish-American culture, organizers said, including local businesses, civic organizations, 13 Long Island fire departments and 22 bands.

The bands were the primary draw for Rosemary O’Connell, 51, of Commack, who attends St. Patrick’s Day parades across Long Island to show her pride in her ancestry and hear traditional Celtic songs.

“If there’s a lot of Irish music, it makes me happy,” she said, as a troupe of bagpipers rounded the corner of Main and Church streets.

A number of bare legs were on display among the parade’s 15 pipe-and-drum bands, who braved the 25-degree weather in kilts and wool socks — as did event organizers.

“You can’t wear a kilt and have your knees covered!” said parade committee chairman Kevin Johnston, whose kilt bore his family’s ancestral tartan pattern.

“It’s a great day for the Irish in Kings Park,” said Johnston, who estimated that at least 4,000 spectators braved the icy weather.

The event, the earliest St. Patrick’s Day parade to be held on Long Island every year, first wound through Kings Park in 2011, after Kevin Denis, a longtime resident, worked to establish the celebration.

Denis said he had previously observed St. Patrick’s Day by serving traditional Irish dishes at the local Professor’s Diner, which he owns.

“I used to cook at least 200 pounds of corned beef,” he said.

“It’s a very big Irish community,” Denis said of Kings Park. “I couldn’t understand why they never had an Irish parade.”

It does now, and residents say they are grateful for it.

Marianne Ryan-Schmid, 58, showed up Saturday, as she has been every year since the parade’s inception.

“It’s about coming together,” said Ryan-Schmid, a lifelong Kings Park resident.

“When all is said and done, we’re all neighbors,” she said. “No matter what the heritage.”

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