Nothing declares more definitively that the South Fork winter is really and truly over than the annual Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick's parade, which will be held this year on March 23.
Coming just about a week after the New York City St. Pat's parade, Montauk's version draws as many as 25,000 spectators along its roughly two-mile route and is considered the second-largest in the state, after New York's.
For many, the day begins with clam chowder served on the downtown green by the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, which depends on local restaurants to provide the classic warmer-upper. The $10 charge includes a souvenir mug to take home.
The parade begins at about 11:30 a.m. on South Edgemere Street, a mostly residential road, where good views and far less of a crowd can be found. There will be floats of a serious theme, marching bands, fire trucks, tractors, and more. Generally the more outlandish entries, for example the irreverent Coneheads and satirical Promised Land Salvage Company, come at the end. Participants in past years have included the United States Coast Guard, which has a station in Montauk, the East Hampton Town Trustees, and many public officials, schools, and civic groups. Sixty-two organizations were represented in the 2013 parade, organizers said.
By the time the line of march reaches the edge of downtown Montauk around noon, the roadsides are packed five or six deep. Parade participants say that the view of thousands of spectators as they make the turn onto Montauk Highway is simply astonishing.
Those in the know arrive early to secure a viewing spot and parking. Westbound traffic out of Montauk can be slow-moving after the parade, so the best thing to do is plan to stay an hour or two, either browsing the shops, getting a bite to eat, or taking a drive east to one of the state or county parks to do a little exploring. The ocean beach is just steps from the parade route too.
Activities begin for the Friends of Erin and its supporters well before the parade itself. A corned beef and cabbage dinner with live music will be held at the Point Bar and Grill on Montauk Highway on Saturday, March 15, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $15, $10 for children.
Members of the Friends of Erin will march in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade on March 17.
The annual grand marshal lunch will be held at Gurney's Inn on Old Montauk Highway on Friday, March 21, at noon. Tickets are $50 and available at montaukfriendsoferin.org. Paul Monte, the manager of Gurney's, is the 2014 grand marshal, a ceremonial post honoring a Montauk resident.
Then on March 22 the annual Friends of Erin cocktail party will be at Gurney's Inn from 4 to 8 p.m. with live music, a $10,000-first-prize cash raffle, and a open bar. Tickets are $75 at the door and $60 in advance at Becker's Home Center in Montauk, Atlantic Wines and Liquors in Amagansett, the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, or online.
As if that were not enough, then the Friends really get down to business. Immediately after the cocktail party, Paul Monte, the Amityville Pipe Band, and a group of supporters are expected climb on board a chartered bus to make the rounds of six Montauk bars and restaurants, starting at Sammy's Restaurant.
After the parade they go at it again, on a nine-stop pub tour that starts at Gurney's Inn and ends at the Montaukett Hotel overlooking Fort Pond Bay and its epic sunset view, weather permitting.
Despite the large numbers of people at the parade, the day is peaceful over all. More than 150 police officers were on patrol last year keeping an eye out for those drinking alcohol on the sidewalks and other minor infractions. Bars and some shops hire additional security just in case.
The Long Island Rail Road's morning trains to Montauk are subject to a temporary ban on alcohol consumption, and police have in the past searched disembarking passengers bags and coolers and confiscated beer and other beverages. According to the L.I.R.R. schedule, trains will arrive in Montauk at 8:10 and 10:10 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. on March 23. The off-peak ticket from Penn Station in New York City is $19.75.
Temperatures for the Montauk St. Patrick's Day parade are generally in the low-to-mid 40s, but brisk winds off the ocean can make it feel somewhat colder. The most reliable weather forecast for Montauk comes from the National Weather Service.
Applications for parade participants close on March 15. A form and guidelines can be downloaded from the Friends of Erin website.
The Am O'Gansett Parade, which is billed as the world's shortest St. Patrick's march, will be on Saturday, beginning just after noon on Montauk Highway in Amagansett. A party will follow on the Amagansett Historical Society lawn at the corner of Montauk Highway and Windmill Lane.