The sun was shining down on smiling Irish eyes Saturday at the 45th annual Westhampton Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Irish heritage and community pride made an excellent pairing along the downtown streets, where hundreds of spectators gathered for an afternoon of friends and fun. Members of the Westhampton community marched alongside drums and bagpipes, dancers and floats on the mild March day.
“St. Patrick’s Day is the beginning of the warm weather, letting you know that spring is around the corner,” said Jane Rogers, a resident who hasn’t missed a parade since 1974. “I’m in town, and I come down just for the fun of it all.”
But what makes the parade fun is the real sense of community. Gathering on the streets of Westhampton Beach aren’t just residents of the neighborhood, they’re old friends, neighbors and family. And they’ve been doing it all their lives.
Jennifer Truscott, 45, a lifelong area resident, has attended every year since she was 5. Thinking back on those parades, she remembers family; now it has become a gathering place for her and her closest friends. Every year, they buy festive St. Patrick’s Day hats to wear together.
“It’s a tradition now,” said Truscott. “We get together and wear the hats and hang out with great friends, and this has been one of the biggest parades I’ve seen, the floats have been great.”
Parade participants ranged from local citizens to the U.S. Coast Guard. Local merchants designed floats that drove behind vintage fire trucks, and Girl Scouts marched behind bagpipers.
One of the more memorable floats belonged to a group of residents that called themselves “The Coneheads.” The group designed a float poking fun at current events, specifically the Occupy Wall Street movement. Dressed as police officers, with cone-shaped headgear, the group rode on a float that claimed to “Occupy Sesame Street.”
“We’ve been making a float in the parade for the last 35 years,” said the group's leader, John. “We’re all about fun and the people, we really just want to have fun, and have every year.”
Families gathered at the end of the parade for a carnival to raise money for next year’s events.
Ellen Paruso has been bringing her two children Rose, 10. and Louis, 11, for the last nine years.
“It’s a lot of fun because you know everyone here, and all of our friends were on the floats, and the kids have been running into friends all day, it’s a real community event," she said.
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