Sunday was technically three days after St. Patrick's Day, but the Irish spirit still remained strong during the 49th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Pearl River.
The parade, the second-largest in New York State, was this year dedicated to the victims and those who served during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Crowds started to gather several hours before the event to make sure they got good seats on the parade route, which started at the parking lot of Pfizer and ended at the Pearl River Post Office on Main Street. Many of them waved Irish flags and blew vuvuzelas both before and during the parade.
Others stopped to buy St. Patrick’s day-themed merchandise from one of the several vendors along the parade route. Their offerings included buttons with sayings like “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” along with green hats, balloons, and even stuffed monkeys.
One of the vendors was Dan Klibonoff, organizer of an upcoming St. Baldrick’s Day event at Rockland County Youth Fest at Rockland Community College on April 3rd. At these events participants gather donations and then shave their heads to show solidarity with children who have cancer. The money then goes directly to children’s cancer research. Besides trying to generate publicity for the event, Klibonoff also had some unique items for sale, including imported Irish dirt and green shirts that say, “Get Lucky in Pearl River,” and have shamrocks on them.
The stores all along the route got into the holiday spirit as well, with many putting green balloons or lights outside their establishments to entice customers as they waied for the parade to start.
Some even changed their menu to fit in with the theme of the day, like Kwan Thai on East Central Avenue. The establishment serves “Thai-rish” food on St. Patrick’s Day, with traditional Thai dishes like spring rolls and wontons, but also dishes that fit the theme of the day, like corn beef sandwiches and green candy apples.
“You don’t have to be Irish to be Thai-rish,” said manager Pete Bellhouse.
Meanwhile, the Parkside Tavern on West Central Avenue also changed up its menu for parade day. It served up corn beef and cabbage sandwiches along with extra beer served in plastic cups. Owner Jon Natirboff also said that he removed some of the chairs so that there would be room for more people. This is nothing new for the Tavern though, as it is almost as old as the parade itself. The Tavern was first started by Jack Natirboff in 1963, who then passed it down to his son Jon.
And being in the area for so long, Natirboff knows the great impact the parade has on his tavern and the other similar establishments in Pearl River.
“I know all the restaurant and bar and tavern owners look forward to it [the parade] to sort of help pay the bills that you couldn’t pay all winter,” he said.
But while some places on the parade route looked forward to the increased business on this day, others actually closed their doors. So for Samantha Sheehan from Shear Serenity Salon on North Main Street in Pearl River, it was a day to have fun with friends and family. For the past four years she has held a party in the salon before the parade, complete with food and cold beverages.
“We’re closed for business, only open for partying,” Sheehan said.
One of Sheehan’s guests at her party was her friend’s dog, but this was by no means the only dog attending the parade. Many other attendees brought their dogs to the event, and some of these dogs were even dressed in green attire for the occasion. In fact for Jim Casey, who brought his son’s dog to the parade, the event served as a way to train the pup named Jackson as well. Jackson is only six months old and has no experience with big crowds, so Casey said he brought the dog in part to help him learn some people skills.
Some of the attendees were there for the first time but came after hearing about the festivities from others. Meg Gearhart just moved to Rockland from Connecticut. She said that while Stamford, Connecticut has its own St. Patrick’s Day parade, since she heard that people come from all over to see the Pearl River parade she had to check it out for herself.
Gearhart attended the parade with her husband, her two young children, and her parents, who came up from Connecticut for the occasion. In fact the parade was a special day for the entire family, as one of Gearhart’s cousins was a bagpiper. Meanwhile, the dedication of the parade to the victims of September 11th also had special meaning for her, as the husband of another of her cousins was killed during those attacks.
“It’s really nice that people all come out and they honor it for that [the dedication],” Gearhart said. “Obviously it has touched everyone and there’s a lot of people in this community and throughout that have been affected, with families and kids that are being brought up without moms and dads, so I think it’s really nice that they’re doing that.”
But some of the attendees came from outside even the tri-state area. Marvin Rothbaum, though he is not Irish, has been coming to the parade for the last 10 years to relax and have fun with some of his friends. One of these was a girl named Satsuci Komo, who just came from Japan to New York, where she will be studying at New York University. Since there is no St. Patrick’s Day in her home country, she was not sure what to expect, but she seemed to be enjoying herself while waiting for the parade to start.
And once it did start the whole crowd got into it, cheering as each new organization went by. But now it is over, and everyone must wait until next year, when Pearl River will do it all over again.
Editor's Note: Updated with story, video and additional pictures.