St. Patrick’s Day is two weeks away, and Riverhead is already gearing up for the Irish celebration. The festivities kicked off this past Saturday at the East End Emerald Society’s grand marshal event at Jason’s Vineyard, with proceeds supporting the fourth annual Jamesport St. Patrick’s Day Parade, set for March 25 at 1 p.m.
This year, Riverhead Town Councilman James Wooten will lead the procession of local fire departments, bagpipers, step dancers and floats past a crowd clad in green down, traveling North Railroad and Washington avenues toward the Jamesport Fire Department.
Here’s what Mr. Wooten had to say about the upcoming parade.
Q: What does it mean to you to be grand marshal this year?
A: I find it very humbling to be asked to represent the community in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s overwhelming. It’s actually the highlight of not only my career, but it’s actually something that’s going to be with me the rest of my life. It’s exciting.
Q: How was Saturday’s event at Jason’s Vineyard?
A: It was good. I’d say we had close to 300 people there. They had a nice ceremony. They bring the bagpipers and then they actually give me a shillelagh and a top hat and a sash and a jacket.
It was just overwhelming. They actually gave me a shillelagh that they ordered from Ireland and that’s something that I get to keep passed down from generation to generation. That’s how authentic the whole thing was. It was awesome.
Q: Are you Irish?
A: I am Irish. I am going to do a DNA test, but my great-great grandmother came here from Ireland in 1840 and settled down in Aquebogue. She was a Magee. My grandmother was born here and my mother was born here. I was raised here — I was born in California, but I was raised here from the time I was a year old and then my daughter was born here, so I’m fifth generation on my mother’s side.
So I have a lot of Irish — I don’t know how much. I still have to do that DNA test my wife got me for Christmas.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about the parade this year?
A: I’m looking forward to nice weather, I hope. I think it’s going to be a great turnout. It gets bigger and bigger every year. I’m glad that four years ago the East End Emerald Society got together and started to do this because they’d never had a St. Patrick’s Day parade. It’s a nice community gathering.
I’m looking forward to not only the parade on the 25th, but I’m looking forward to the Suffolk Theater’s “March of the Leprechauns.” They’re doing that to raise funds.
Q: What should people know about this year’s parade?
A: I just want everyone to come out, wear green and have a good time and show their support to the community and especially to the East End Emerald Society. They really work hard on this thing. It’s really their bailiwick.
I just want everyone to come out and have a good time and enjoy it and be festive for the day. It’ll be a good kickoff to spring.