Hurricane Sandy left a trail of destruction in the Rockaway Peninsula last October, but the one thing the storm couldn’t wreck is the annual Rockaway St. Patrick’s parade, even though organizers admit to being cash-strapped due to a lack of normal fundraising.
“It’s been tough,” Mike Benn, president of the Queens County St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, told the Irish Voice.
“How do you go to business owners who have lost everything and ask them to donate funds? You don’t.
“Because of the storm we haven’t been able to have our normal fundraising events. But the parade is definitely going ahead, no question about that.”
The 38th annual march in the Rockaways, officially known as the Queens County St. Patrick’s Day Parade, is set for Saturday, March 2 at 1 p.m. Though there was talk in the aftermath of Sandy that this year’s event might be canceled due to the severe storm damage in the Rockaways – many businesses remain closed, and homes uninhabitable – organizers are determined to march on and make this year’s parade the best yet.
The single fundraising event that parade organizers held took place last Saturday evening at Antun’s in Queens Village, a dinner dance attended by more than 450.
Marching bands are being asked to donate their own fees and other costs, and organizers are hoping to obtain a donated large tent to host parade participants for a post-march corned beef and cabbage party.
“Usually we do that at St. Camillus, but the auditorium was destroyed,” says Benn, a native of Co. Limerick and Rockaways resident for 38 years.
The parade will have an abundance of new marching groups this year, all wanting to show solidarity with the Rockaways.
“We are going to have bands from New Hampshire and Maine that reached out to us,” Benn says.
“People all want to show their support, and we are very grateful.”
The parade will also feature a host of politicians, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and all the Democratic candidates vying for his job come November.
“Yes, they’ve all sent in RSVPs, and they’re all coming,” said Benn.
Though the heavily Irish Rockaways were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, residents and business owners are slowly starting to get back on their feet. A good turnout at the parade next Saturday will help businesses recoup some of their massive losses, according to organizers.
Carmel O’Sullivan, a native of Co. Kerry, owns the New Kerry Hills Pub located at 115-10 RockawayBeach Boulevard. The small pub was ruined after Sandy and required extensive plumbing and electrical repair; it only re-opened its doors last month.
“It’s been slow during the day,” O’Sullivan told the Irish Voice.
The New Kerry Hills is located along the Rockaway parade route, and O’Sullivan, whose son is the popular Irish American musician Patrick Clifford, is hoping for a good day.
“I hope everyone comes out for the parade,” said O’Sullivan, who moved back into her home two weeks ago near the pub after it was also flooded after the storm.
Mickey McCreesh, a native of Co. Armagh and co-owner of Bar 43 in Sunnyside, Queens, is one of the deputy grand marshals of the Rockaway parade. He has spent many weekends in places like
Breezy Point and Belle Harbor to help with the clean-up and rebuild, and says that the locals he knows are looking forward to a big march.
“I think the morale is very good, even though people did talk about canceling the parade after the storm,” McCreesh said.
“I just hope it’s a good day. God knows they all deserve it.”
The parade will commence at 1 p.m. at Beach 129th Street and Newport Avenue, proceeding on Newport to Beach 116th Street to Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The march ends at Beach 90th.
For more information, visit www.queenscountyparade.org