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First ever St. Patrick's parade comes to Riverhead on Saturday

Riverhead will hold a St. Patrick's Day parade for the first time in town history.

The town has school parades, anti-drug marches, Fourth of July parades and a big celebration in Polishtown every year with bands, ethnic foods and the staging of a traditional Polish wedding.

It's not clear, even to the parade organizers, why Riverhead never had a St. Patrick's Day parade -- no bands and floats marching down a main street accompanied by the sound of bagpipes.

The organizers will try to make up for that when marchers proceed down Main Road in Jamesport on Saturday at 1 p.m., heading to the George Young Community Center.

But there won't be any bagpipes.

St. Patrick's Day, and the weekends around it, are the busiest time of the year for pipers, and there just wasn't enough time to book them, said parade organizer John Cuddy.

But, he added, everyone he talks to has told him that the second St. Patrick's Day parade will be easier to organize than the first, and the third will be easier than the second.

"It's a learning experience," he said.

What he learned so far this year is there is a long process to go through before a town agrees to close a road for a parade. There has to be a traffic impact study; there has to be insurance; there has to be a list of who will be marching. There even has to be a map showing where portable toilets will be located.

And the entire plan has to be approved by Riverhead's chief of police, and also by the town board.

"The police chief approved the route and we got our permit," Cuddy said. "You don't know how much work is involved until you do it."

He's gotten advice from the people who hold the other St. Patrick's Day parades on the East End -- there are so many that parades are staggered over two or three weeks -- and he's learned it's not a good idea to hold two parades on the same day in communities that are near each other.

The confirmed parade list includes several fire departments, Irish step dancers from Mattituck and even a float from the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry.

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