Sporting green and orange hats, colored fake mustaches and boas, thousands of families from the Moriches area lined Main Street Sunday afternoon to take part in a St. Patrick’s Day parade they say tops all others.
“I think ours is the best one, because everyone from our community comes out,” said Allison Montesanto, a mother of three from Center Moriches, as she waited with her family for the 11th annual parade in her town to start.
Pointing to the sea of people wearing Kelly green that stretched through the downtown area, she said, “Everyone on this street either lives in Center or close to Center [and] it’s a nice time for everyone to reconnect after a long winter.”
The hourlong parade, which kicked off at 2 p.m., captured the “small town charm” that Montesanto said attracted her to move to Center Moriches 11 years ago.
“Families have been here for generations and generations,” she said. “… Everyone says ‘Hi’ even if you don’t know each other.”
Growing up in Wading River, Mary Kate Helmsing, who now lives in Indiana, had always attended the Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day parade as a child. However, while visiting family in the area, Helmsing chose Center Moriches for her 11-month-old daughter Emma’s first parade.
“This one is more small town,” she added.
The parade featured pipes and drums, the Center Moriches High School marching band, gymnasts and Irish step dancers, who each performed as they made their way down Main Street.
It was the second year that Brenna Douglas, 9, was step dancing with the Kildare Academy, an Irish dance school with three locations, including one in Center Moriches.
“You get to dress up in green and wave and have fun,” said the Manorville girl, who has been dancing for four years.
Spectators, young and old, also enjoyed the fire trucks, classic cars and creative floats that rode past them. The Center Moriches Civic Association took first place with their “castle” float, which included shamrocks, rainbows and pots of gold.
Also marching in the parade this year, were Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, martial arts students, and group trained in the art of wielding light sabers. They were all led down Main Street by this year’s grand marshal Ed Morris Sr.
“There’s nothing like being honored by your hometown,” Morris said. “It’s something special.”
Walking close behind him, some of his family members, who also live in the Moriches area, carried a banner that read “Our Papa is the Grand Marshal.” His grandnieces stood on Main Street, waving Irish flags, and eagerly waiting for him to pass by.
Since moving to the Moriches area 35 years ago, Morris has been active in the community, especially with the Little League program. Still, he was pleasantly surprised and honored when he found out he was chosen to be grand marshal this year.
“I’ve been to many other parades,” he said. “The best part of Center Moriches is it’s a small Main Street parade .?.?. It’s beautiful and it’s over within an hour.”