Never in his wildest dreams did Michael Rau imagine that he would one day serve as the grand marshal for the Patchogue St. Patrick's Day Parade.
But dreams do come true.
“I feel honored and privileged,” said Rau, 46, of East Patchogue. “My family came from Washington, D.C and upstate New York to see me in the parade today. This is a great day for me to celebrate with my family and the community.”
Rau has been the owner of Tires Incorporated located in Patchogue for 12 years. Prior to being owner, he was the mechanic there for 16 years. A devoted community servant, Rau has been a supporter of the Village of Patchogue Parks and Recreation Department and the Patchogue Youth Athletic Association for more than ten years.
His dedication to these organizations and the community at large helped him secure this year’s honor, said Maria Giustizia, Village of Patchogue Parks and Recreations director and parade coordinator.
The 18th annual parade was hosted by the department of parks and recreation and the Greater Patchogue Foundation. About 2,000 spectators attended to watch pipe bands, floats, twirlers, fire trucks and dancers as they traveled from East Main Street west towards Waverly Avenue ending at Jennings Avenue.
The parade kicked off with an estimated 300 runners in the 5K Run at 12:20 p.m. and the parade procession followed the runners.
“This is the sixth year for the run,” Giustizia said. “We decided to put the run with the race to make the event more festive.”
The parade began as a way to celebrate Irish heritage.
“We wanted to recognize and celebrate the Irish heritage,” Giustizia said. “The little kids always get so excited. It’s always fun to see all the families come out and have a great time at the parade.”
Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri said he was thrilled to watch the fun-filled festivities.
“The parade is always a fun and great way for the community to come together,” he said. “I have been marching in the parade for 10 years and I love it.”
Christine Cassidy, of Centereach, attended the parade with her 7-year-old twins Ashlyn and Alexa and 3-year-old triplets James, Noelle and Nicole.
“What better way to spend St. Patrick’s Day than at this parade,” she said. “We are having a great time.”