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An unexpected celebration: St. Patrick’s Day on Fire Island

People gathered at Castaways Bar & Grill in

People gathered at Castaways Bar & Grill in Ocean Beach on Fire Island to celebrate St. Patrick's Day on Saturday. Credit: Ian J. Stark

For some people in the know about Fire Island, the only place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is in Ocean Beach.

“I’ve been coming here [for St. Patrick’s Day] for more than 20 years,” Jay Ronayne of Oakdale said Saturday, “and I like that not everyone knows about it.”

Ronayne came to Castaways Bar and Grill, one of three spots in Ocean Beach that offered dedicated parties for the holiday.

Aside from Castaways, The Albatross restaurant and CJ’s Restaurant and Bar also hold bashes that provided full bars in addition to serving corned beef and Irish soda bread.

Ocean Beach is a year-round community, unlike most of Fire Island, and in the winter it’s not odd to find a small group of people in town having drinks.

But on March 17, many Long Islanders sporting green came to take advantage of the holiday parties — and fill the three venues to capacity. Visitors tend to hop between the taverns throughout the day.

“You come here to get away from the madness,” says John Fiorini of Commack, referring to how he views the bar scene on LI’s mainland. “It’s like a secret and it’s great.”

One advantage of grabbing a drink in Ocean Beach is that you can’t drive there, so there’s no packed parking lots or traffic to navigate.

Once on the main strip, you can walk at your leisure, or ride a bike, as a group of people chose to do Saturday.

“You can’t beat the ride,” said Ed Spinella from Kings Park, who rode a wide-tired, sand-handling mountain bike from Field Five at Robert Moses State Park to CJ’s with a bunch of friends.

He admitted, “this time of year, it’s fine one way but…man! The wind is just brutal on the trip back.”

Temperatures hovered between 40 and 45 degrees through the afternoon, but Spinella sported a windbreaker, boots and shorts, as well as leprechaun-styled knee-high socks and a shamrock necklace to mark the holiday.

“I come to Fire Island all the time, but this is my first St. Patrick’s Day here,” Beth de George, a Melville resident, said. “I had to come to CJ’s for the corned beef, and of course a Rocket Fuel.”

For those who aren’t familiar with nightlife in Ocean Beach, CJ’s is known as the “Home of the Rocket Fuel,” a powerful cocktail (pina colada, mixed with vodka, tequila and 151-proof rum) that is synonymous with summer fun for a lot of Fire Island fun-lovers.

“You can’t come to Ocean Beach and not have a Rocket Fuel,” de George said.

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