Looking back at the first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Westhampton Beach, it’s easy to understand why being a part of the parade looks like so much fun—the Parade’s founders wanted it that way.
The Westhampton Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade has seen its fair share of great moments. Besides having some of the best pipe bands in the region, there was this time when some guy marched ducks down Main Street (no, it wasn’t Grand Marshal ’99 Billy Thorne), and another time when someone loaded a Volkswagen Bug onto the back of flat bed truck and covered it with snow to protest the harsh winter. Yet another time one local pub’s interior was recreated on the back of a flat-bed truck.
And in 2007 then Grand Marshal and former Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Robert Strebel threw everyone for a loop (literally) when he circled the Village’s new roundabout for a full turn before getting back on the parade route.
And of course, no one can forget the Coneheads. Every year this group finds a spunky way to work politics and current events into the parade theme while barbecuing a pig on the Parade route. Often they win for best Parade float. By the way, don’t even try to find out who they are going to lampoon each year, it’s a tightly guarded secret!
It all started back in 1968. Sure the Mets went on to win the World Series that year and the Jets won the Super Bowl, but the big story in the little Village of Westhampton Beach was the beginning of something special. And it was all courtesy of a group that called themselves the Cooks and Bakers who some say were neither cooks nor bakers.
The unofficial story is that the group, after a long evening of imbibing their favorite drink at an even more favorite watering hole near the center of town on one quiet winter evening, decided that they should march in a parade down Main Street. So soon after they did. It wasn’t the most organized event and it wasn’t all that big of a deal at the time, but the group had fun, which is what they set out to do.
During the ensuing summer months and into the fall, a few decided that this impromptu Parade should be more. So they organized. One person went to work on organizing floats and bands while another worked on raising money.
Things started to snowball (although that may not be the best analogy considering the Parade has been canceled once due to a snowy nor’easter while several others have marched in less than spring-like conditions). Soon the parade was gaining strength into the event it is today.
Leading each and every Parade is the Grand Marshal. Carefully selected each year on a basis of community service among other attributes, 51 Grand Marshals have led the march. Grand Marshals are selected each year by the Committee and past Grand Marshals. After nominations are taken from members of the Committee, the Committee votes and the nomination that garners the most votes from the Committee gets awarded six votes towards the final vote. The final vote takes place with a special meeting of all the past Grand Marshals. The nomination with the most votes after the Grand Marshals’ vote is the next Grand Marshal. The Committee begins Grand Marshal deliberations in November and settles shortly thereafter.