Some were wrapped in blankets and others in woolly hats and gloves, but the chilly weather on Sunday did nothing to keep an estimated crowd of some 25,000 to 30,000 people from attending the Montauk Friends of Erin’s 51st annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, with Jack Perna, the district superintendent of the Montauk School, leading the way as grand marshal.
There was some concern before the parade that the number of spectators would be much lower this year, as there were other St. Patrick’s Day parades scheduled in Patchogue, Glen Cove, Rocky Point, and Farmingdale on the same day, but according to Lt. Chris Hatch, the East Hampton Town Police Department’s Montauk precinct commander, that wasn’t the case.
He said that police estimated last year’s crowd to be 15,000 to 20,000 people. Five years ago, he said, the crowds came in at 45,000, the most ever. Two thousand five hundred passengers swept into the hamlet on four trains throughout the day on Sunday.
In addition to at least 150 police officers monitoring the festivities, several stores and restaurants hired private security personnel this year, including 7-Eleven, which had security officers posted outside and inside the store, where by Friday the beer was fully stocked and cases were lining the aisles.
“I think it went wonderful. Again, we got what we were looking for — it was all families,” said Joe Bloecker, the president of the Montauk Friends of Erin.
Lieutenant Hatch said the crowd’s behavior was better than average. He said there were nine arrests, four fewer than last year. Twenty-one tickets were handed out for open alcohol containers, public urination, and littering.
The parade was lively, with more than 62 contingents including marching bands, silly floats, and . . . Bob the Builder? Yep, the children’s cartoon character mingled with kids while walking the parade route. Candy, T-shirts, and beads were thrown to an enthusiastic crowd.
The winning float this year was from the Montauk School, which seems fitting, given the grand marshal. Mr. Perna said on Tuesday that he was overwhelmed. “It was wonderful, the whole weekend was wonderful,” he said with a hoarse voice. The float featured former students and faculty and staff members dressed in graduation caps and gowns. The school was awarded $500 and a plaque.
In second place, the Nancy Atlas float, a musical number with several riders dressed as Elvis, won $300 and a plaque. Third place went to Gordon Ryan’s Promised Land Salvage Company float, which had supposed passengers from the Carnival cruise ship disaster from mid-February that left many without food or proper restroom facilities. Some were dressed in stained robes and looked as if they were trying to jump ship. The float won $200 and a plaque.
In the Pot of Gold raffle that took place during a cocktail party on Saturday at Gurney’s Inn, Mitch Wolman of Sound Beach won the grand prize of $10,000. Henry Uihlein of Montauk won $1,000, and Joan Lycke, also of Montauk, won $500, as did Larry Zimmerman.