Diocesan News

St. Pat’s Parades Hope to Bring Smiles Back to Brooklyn & Queens

The NYPD’s Police Band marching on Bell Blvd. in the Bayside parade.

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Brooklyn and Queens are hoping to “get their Irish up” this year, with local St. Patrick’s Day parade committees crossing their fingers they’ll be able to step off in marches once again.

After two years of COVID lockdowns, sponsors of perennial parades in Bay Ridge, Rockaway, and Bayside are chomping at the bit to get back to normal.

While many people only see the boisterous St. Patrick’s Day bar scene, these parade committees hold fundraisers, give to charities, and sponsor scholarships all year long with the help of local donations.

Richard O’Mara, vice president of the Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day parade committee, said, “It’s a challenge since we have not had a parade in two years to keep the community active.”

O’Mara lamented the lack of donations to local charitable organizations and educational scholarships, which are the cornerstones of every parade committee.

“Since we have not held a parade or a dinner dance the last two years, we are out roughly $20,000,” he said.

O’Mara said the group was able to hold their annual “Irish Night on Shore Road” this past summer as a way to sell some parade committee merchandise and keep the community engaged.

While the organization is planning a March 27 parade, O’Mara said he still hasn’t received his parade permit but figures it will come soon since the other diocese-based parades have gotten theirs.

The Bayside parade will be held on March 26, according to organizers. Like Bay Ridge and the Rockaways, Bayside did not have a March parade in 2021, but did hold a scaled-down, “Halfway to St. Pat’s” march in September.

Francis McLoughlin, Bayside’s parade chairman, said he is looking forward to bringing the pipes and drums back to Bell Blvd.

Francis McLoughlin, Bayside’s parade chairman, presents a donation check to Michael Clark of the Kevin Bell Trust.

McLoughlin pointed out that despite the fact that the committee was not being able to run its annual golf outing during the pandemic, the group was still able to make $27,000 in donations to many of its benefactors, including the Tunnel For Towers Foundation, Father Chris Heanue’s food pantry, and scholarships for Irish Step Dancing and music schools, among others.

The Rockaways parade committee plans to have a new grand marshal (John Samuelsen) and aides this year with a fundraising dinner dance scheduled for Feb.12, according to chairman Michael Benn.

Benn also noted that two years without a St. Patrick’s Day parade forced belt-tightening that hampered the organization’s charitable giving efforts. He estimates $20,000 was lost over the last two years, affecting such benefactors as the Knights of Columbus and local parish schools.

The Rockaway parade on March 5 will probably only see half of its usual bands marching as the committee was hamstrung in lining up acts last September due to pandemic restrictions. 

“Then, in December, when we sent out a note to confirm, the new variant was hitting people really hard, so we may have [just] 12 to 13 bands,” Benn said. 

So will the luck of the Irish be with these parade committees this year?

As Bayside’s McLoughlin put it, “I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t want my heart broken like two years ago when they shut us down the night before St. Patrick’s Day.”

“I hope we will march.” But, he added with a wry smile, “we’ll see.”