Although the sounds of bagpipes could not be heard as the inaugural Riverhead St. Patrick’s Day parade stepped off on Saturday afternoon, Irish spirit was in the air as droves of community members, dressed in green and Irish garb, lined Main Road in the hamlet of Jamesport to be a part of town history.
Spectators cheered and waved Irish flags as some 30 groups and organizations marched from Washington Avenue to South Jamesport Avenue in the 45-minute-long parade, which was planned in a little less than two months.
“Nearly every town in Nassau and Suffolk has a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but for some reason Riverhead never had one,” said John Cuddy, one of five parade organizers. “We felt that Riverhead needed to be represented.”
To get the parade off the ground, Cuddy and four of his friends -- Sean O’Neil, Brandon Hewes, Walter Magee and Richie Stephenson -- formed the East End Emerald Society with the blessing of the NYPD Emerald Society, paying parade permit fees, including insurance out of their own pockets.
They also selected Cuddy’s father, Jack, as the first grand marshal. Cuddy said his father, who just turned 88, was picked for his service to the country, not only as a two-time combat veteran in World War II, but also for his 22 years as a member of the New York City Police Department.
“He is also a charter member of the NYPD Emerald Society, which formed in 1953,” Cuddy said.
With a grand marshal selected and permits in place, the society put out a call for participants and Cuddy said the response was immense, with most local fire departments jumping on board, as well as local farms and dance schools.
Cuddy, who was pleased with the turnout of the first parade, said the East End Emerald Society intends to grow the event by holding fundraisers to pay future parade costs and also incorporate pipe bands, which require payment to march.
“I don’t know where all this will lead in the future,” Cuddy said, “but we had to start somewhere and this was a great start.”