A Kinder, Gentler 50th Parade

‘We got rid of those bums,’ Bloecker says
 One of the Elvises posed for the crowd at Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Nothin’ but a hound dog. One of the Elvises posed for the crowd at Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Carrie Ann Salvi

    The luck of the Irish really kicked in on Sunday when the rain held off until the end of the Montauk Friends of Erin’s 50th anniversary parade.
    The new 10 a.m. start thinned the crowds by about 40 percent, according to East Hampton Town police, but they still estimated the throngs to number about 20,000.
    The earlier start miffed a few bar owners, who are not allowed to serve liquor until after noon on Sundays, but Joe Bloecker, the president of the Friends of Erin, said on Tuesday that the change had worked exactly as the organization planned. “I think it was a great parade,” he said, adding, “We got rid of all those bums, and when families hear that they might think about coming back out for the parade.”    The 10 a.m. start was timed in part to avoid an influx of drunken crowds pouring into the hamlet from eastbound trains. The first train arrived in Montauk that day at 10:46 a.m.
    Mr. Bloecker said that many people who did come out for the parade rented motel rooms and ate in restaurants the night before, giving a boost to the economy. The new time is not written in stone for the future, and the organization is contemplating what to do for next year, he said.
    “I got a lot of grief about that. Some were happy about it and others were not. But it’s a decision that was made not by one person. The whole organization has to vote on it,” he said. Also, the parade this year lasted less than an hour and a half, half the time of previous parades that some had complained dragged on for too long.
    It was the lack of people getting off the trains that allowed it to proceed on schedule, Mr. Bloecker said, noting that the rabble-rousers who used to come off the train often disrupted the parade. He said that the organization has already raised enough money to cover the expense of the parade, which can cost more than $30,000 to stage.
    Children and their parents gathered behind barriers to grab at the beads, candy, and other trinkets that were thrown from the floats. The Montauk Indian Museum entry won first place for best float. It had a crudely constructed wigwam, with a simulated fire blazing. Fish hung from racks to dry and Dick Cavett, a supporter of the museum, which is still in the fund-raising stage, made an appearance. Lawrence Cooke, who initiated the idea of the museum and was on the float, pocketed a prize of $500 for his cause.
    Second place went to the Mickettes, a flock of family and friends of the grand marshal, Mickey Valcich, who were dressed as cheerleaders with pompoms as the Toni Basal song, “Hey Mickey, You’re so Fine” blasted from speakers. They won $300.
    In third place and winning a $100 prize was Montauk Youth, featuring the Funk Squad, a bunch of dancers marching along. An honorable mention for fourth place went to the Montauk Boy Scout float.
    Among the fire departments participating, the Patchogue Fire Department claimed the trophy this year. The department will keep it until next year, when it is handed over to the 2013 winner.
    It was mostly locals who won the prizes in the Friend’s annual Pot of Gold raffle. Gloria Etzel of Montauk took home the top prize of $10,000. Larry Otto of Otto Glass won $1,000 and donated it right back to the organization, as Paul Darenberg of Montauk did with his $500 prize. Tyler Weiss, also of Montauk, took home the other third place prize of $500.
    The Montauk Chamber of Commerce sold 550 cups of soup donated by various restaurants for $7 apiece and split the proceeds with the Friends of Erin.


Janis, just wanted to clarify a couple of details in your coverage of the Parade. The "simulated" fire on the Montauk Indian Museum float was actually a live fire (and it required constant tending to stay that way!) Also, I'm sure you didn't mean it to sound as if Lawrence Cooke actually "pocketed" the prize money, as was stated; the money was deposited into the Montauk Historical Society's Montauk Indian Museum account. Just wanted to make that clear, because though the idea for the museum was, indeed, Lawrence's brainchild, the Montauk Indian Museum is actually a subset of the Montauk Historical Society. Thanks for the coverage, Jessica (float mgr.)