Call it the luck of the Irish. After a rain storm battered New York City throughout the night on Friday with, at times, torrential downpours, Irish eyes were all smiles when the skies cleared up in time for the 48th Queens County St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Rockaway Beach on Saturday, March 4.
The festivities started with a mass for peace and justice at St. Francis de Sales Church before New York City’s second largest St. Patrick’s Day kicked off with a slight delay at Beach 130th and Newport Avenue.
Cheered on by parade revelers, marching and bagpipe bands, dance groups and community groups made their way down Newport Avenue, across Beach 116th Street and down Rockaway Boulevard to Beach 100th Street.
The parade was a family and community affair for Rockaway residents who lined the parade route, showing their Irish pride by wearing emerald green and waving Irish flags.
Elena Curiale has been coming to the parade for a few years and brought her dog Cody, an Irish wheaten terrier. Curiale said, she was looking forward to the food like corned beef and cabbage, drinks and “everyone being together.”
“The whole neighborhood just comes alive,” Curiale said. “It’s great.”
When asked if Curiale was also going to the “big” St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan, she responded, “100%.”
Tom Touhey, the parade’s formation chairman, shared that he and his friend Jimmy Sullivan were two of the founders of the Queens County St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The friends wanted a parade in the peninsula for the people who couldn’t make it to the one in the “city,” and an idea was born.
“We were like 21, 22 back then,” Touhey recalled. “The first year was like 15 minutes, and they called it Solomon’s Follies, because they were joking that we put on a parade.”
Retired Judge George Grasso, candidate for Queens district attorney, came to the parade with his wife Regina. He called the Rockaway St. Patrick’s Day Parade a “real New York institution” and was excited to see many of his friends from the “old days in the NYPD and working in the courts.”
“It’s kind of like old home week being back here in the Rockaways,” Grasso said. “It’s a great day in Rockaway, and I’m glad this parade is back.”
New York City Councilwoman Joann Ariola, who represents the western half of the Rockaway Peninsula, said it was a great day for the Irish and the Rockaway Peninsula.
“And it’s a great way to show everyone that we have come back from COVID,” Ariola said.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said that the event celebrated the strength of the Rockaways.
“We love being in the Rockaways for the St. Patrick’s Day parade,” Katz said. “The community comes together. All walks of life from all over the borough just to celebrate St. Patrick’s.”
Mayor Eric Adams was full of excitement as he greeted paradegoers along the route.
“You just feel the energy out here,” hizzoner said. “This is the heart of the St. Patrick’s Day community. Hardworking civil servants — teachers, firefighters, police officers. This right here is middle America.”