A float rolls down Main Street in Bay Shore during...

A float rolls down Main Street in Bay Shore during the 2016 St. Patrick's Day parade.  Credit: Jennifer A. Uihlein

Irish heritage will be on full display Saturday as the Bay Shore-Brightwaters community steps out to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its St. Patrick’s Day parade after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

The parade will begin at 2 p.m. at Saxon Avenue and end at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church on Clinton Avenue in Bay Shore. Before the kickoff, a Mass will be held at the church at noon. Fire Island Ferries owner Tim Mooney will be the parade’s grand marshal.

"Our parade has gotten a great reputation," said organizer Annie Kane. "Our parade in the last 20 years has grown a lot by word-of-mouth." More than 1,000 people typically march in the parade, organizers said, adding they expect the same number this year.

Kane credits the parade’s success to the dedication of the organizers, many of whom have been part of the planning committee since the inaugural parade in 2001, which had nearly 15,000 attendees. The number of paradegoers has now ballooned up to 50,000, Kane said.

"It only happens once a year," she said. "We try to make it a little magical, and it seems to have worked."

Members of the Bay Shore-Brightwaters St. Patrick's Day parade committee...

Members of the Bay Shore-Brightwaters St. Patrick's Day parade committee hold a planning meeting at the Knights of Columbus in Bay Shore on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Organizers had planned to mark the parade's 20th year in 2020, and then again in 2021, but plans were thwarted by the pandemic. Organizers are cautiously optimistic of the parade's return Saturday but advised it could be canceled last-minute "due to the ever-changing state of COVID." The permit wasn’t approved by the town until February, contributing to the anticipation, Kane said. Saturday's weather calls for rain, but Kane said organizers are hopeful sunshine will prevail for the rain or shine event.

"We’re hoping that people will come back," she said, adding that there’s a slight worry that attendees might be hesitant to join the crowd due to lingering virus concerns. For the parades that have already taken place on Long Island, hundreds have attended.

The Mummers from Philadelphia, a string band that wears elaborate, eye-catching costumes during parade performances, will perform. Marchers will include members of the Bay Shore Brightwaters Rescue Ambulance, the Bay Shore Fire Department, Northwell Health, a Volkswagen car club and five pipe and drum bands.

Grand marshal Mooney, who is a third-generation Irish American, was selected for his community involvement, Kane said, calling him "Mr. Bay Shore."

Mooney, who has waited two years to lead the parade, joked that he’s the longest-serving grand marshal in the parade's history.

"This parade has really built up over the years," he said. "A lot of communities have stepped back from the parade, but this community has stepped up for the parade. … My favorite part is when we’re right in the middle of downtown and all the people are cheering."

What began as a way to celebrate the Irish community also serves a broader purpose of honoring all town residents. This year’s parade will feature live music and marchers representing health care workers, first responders, police officers and veterans, including two Purple Heart recipients.

The parade kick-starts the area’s spring festivities, said Brightwaters Village Mayor John Valdini.

"We’ve all been through a lot this winter, and the world seems upside down at times," he said. "This event will be a good reason to come out and celebrate all that is good in the community."

PARADE FACTS

The annual parade costs about $30,000 to organize and is funded by events like raffles and a dinner and dance. Parade planning takes half of the year, with organizers taking a break for six months before restarting planning efforts in September.

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