The 51st annual Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick's Parade is all set for this Sunday.
Breaking with tradition, the parade is being held on St. Patrick's Day, and while the weather is forecast to be a little chilly, the East Hampton Town Police Department is still preparing for tens of thousands of people to descend onto Montauk.
"We hope everybody comes and enjoys themselves and that they do their best to make this a well attended family event," said Lt. Chris Hatch, the Montauk precinct commander.
Hatch said the department is planning for a typical crowd of 35,000 to 40,000 people. "We're dealing with a lot of variables," he said referring to the date and time changes. The New York City parade is the day before the holiday, and there are parades in Patchogue, Rocky Point and Glen Cove on Sunday, as well. Last year, the parade, which ended up having bad weather, only drew about 20,000, he said.
"We're hoping everybody keeps it family oriented and abides by good common sense and courtesy, and then everything kind of takes care of itself," he said.
Combating Drunken Drivers
Hatch said 160 police officers from various East End agencies will be on duty for the parade. There's a zero-tolerance, as always, for underage drinking. "Public disorder and drinking in public, so on and so forth, will be strictly prohibited," Hatch said.
Police are initiating a STOP-DWI campaign town-wide on St. Patrick's Day. About 10 officers will be on patrol for the targeted enforcement. The Suffolk County sheriff's office is bringing its mobile DWI van, dubbed the BAT Mobile, to the parade.
Early in the morning, officers will be stationed on the Napeague Stretch as a reminder to people who will be drinking not to get behind the wheel afterwards.
The parade is starting at 11:30 a.m. — later than last year's 10 a.m. start, but still earlier than in years past. The time is compromise of sorts. The hope is to weed out those who come to the parade just to drink and cause problems, while also drawing people to Montauk, which boosts sales for businesses as the unofficial start to the season.
Plan to stake your place along the parade route early. Marchers and floats will start to line up on Flamingo Avenue so the northern route will be closed from the north section of Edgemere to the train station starting at 10 a.m.
Main Street will be shut down around 11 a.m., according to Hatch. He recommends that people who want to set up along the parade route get there by 10 a.m.
People will be able to get in and out of Montauk before and during the parade, but he asked that non-parade-goers bear with the slow traffic and re-routing.
Typically, between 4,000 and 6,000 take trains to Montauk for the parade, Hatch said. However, last year, with the earlier start time and bad weather, only 700 to 1,000 did.
If you want to take the train to Montauk, there are several from which to chose. The primary incoming train arrives in Montauk at 10:46 a.m. and the next regularly scheduled one arrives at 12:45 p.m.
Eastbound trains will be enforcing no open alcohol containers and all trains will be covered by multiple MTA police, Hatch said.
Heading west, there are trains at 1:23, 3:30, 4:30, 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.
If you're from Montauk, we don't need to tell you who is leading the parade this year. It's none other than Montauk School's principal and superintendent Jack Perna. So, we're expecting a really good float from the school this year!