Written by travel  |  10. March 2005

In the nine years since its founding, the Rockville Centre St. Patrick's Parade has become Long Island's largest march in honor of Ireland's Patron Saint. This year's event, which will step off at noon on Saturday March 19, promises to be the biggest ever, with over a hundred contingents and over twenty pipe bands making their way from Long Beach Road, down Maple Avenue, to the reviewing stand in front of St. Agnes Cathedral. The parade will be led by the 2005 Grand Marshal, Major General Joseph A. Healey, retired Commanding General of New York's 69th Army National Guard Regiment, the famous "Fighting 69th." The regiment, which began as the legendary "Irish Brigade" in the Civil War, has an illustrious history, through World War I in Europe, World War II in the Pacific, and now serving heroically in Iraq. A Comemorative Mass in honor of St. Patrick will be held at 9 AM on Saturday March 19 (the morning of the parade) at St. Agnes Cathedral. For information on this event, contact Jeanie Waters at (516) 536-3614. Besides becoming Long Island's largest St. Patrick's Parade, what makes the Rockville Centre march truly unique is the fact that it raises funds each year for three worthy causes: a local, a national and an Irish-related charity. In the past eight years, over $300,000 has been raised for 24 non-profit organizations. This year's charities are: The Semper Fi Fund, which provides supplemental assistance to injured Marines and Sailors and their families; The 69th Regiment Restoration Fund, which supports the creation of exhibits of the unit's memorabilia at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan; and The Galway Hospice Foundation, which provides palliative care to the terminally ill in the Galway region of Ireland. The Semper Fi donation will be made in honor of Marine Lt. Ronald Winchester, a Rockville Centre resident killed in Iraq. The funds are raised each year through a number of events, including a Benefit Breakfast at CJ's Coffee Shop in Rockville Centre, to be held this year on Sunday March 13; and the Grand Marshal's Reception, at the Rockville Links Country Club on Friday March 18. For information on the fundraising events, call AnnMarie Myatt at (516) 678-1414. For information on the parade management, call Keely Collins at (516) 536-3614. The main attraction, of course, is the parade itself, for which Rockville Centre residents (and many other communities as well) turn out by the thousands. So, pin on your shamrocks, grab your shillelagh and put on your derby, and head to Rockville Centre March 19 for a fun day of Irishness!

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