Mickey Valcich, of and , was named the Grand Marshal of Montauk's next St. Patrick's Day parade in a ceremony on the hamlet's green hosted by the Montauk Friends of Erin on Saturday. A was unveiled there by the great-great-grandchildren of Mike Eagan, who served as the parade's first Grand Marshal back in 1963.
The ceremony was attended by notables including several past Grand Marshals, Suffolk County Legis. Jay Schneiderman, I-Montauk, Town Justice Lisa Rana, Councilman Dominic Stanzione, and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley. A color guard was sent by the Montauk Coast Guard station, and music was provided by the Amityville Pipe Band.
John Behan, who served as a Grand Marshal in 1979, delivered an emotional speech about his reception in Montauk shortly after he returned from the Vietnam War in 1967, where a tour of duty as a marine cost him his legs.
"You think back to the 60s, people were burning the American flag ... they called us drug addicts and baby killers. But not when I came home. Montauk Friends of Erin honored me with a convertible with an Irish beauty queen to ride alongside me, and they requested that I wear my uniform."
East Hampton Town Supervisor and Montauk resident Bill Wilkinson credited the Friends of Erin with turning the hamlet into an off-season tourist destination that brings out "40,000 visitors" for the parade.
"This is a community of giving," he said. "When someone is hurting, we in this community respond," thanks in no small part to organizations such as the Friends of Erin.
Members of the group read off the names of the 50 men and women inscribed on the plaque, illustrating that becoming a grand marshal and participating in the organization is often a family tradition, with scattered mentions of fathers, grandfathers, and even mother-in-laws who had served before.
Chris and Kim Gatti, the great-grandchildren of Eagan, the first grand marshal, brought their children, Aubrey, Michael, and Kayla, to the podium, where they helped to unveil the plaque along with Valcich.
Afterwards, a "halfway to St. Patrick's Day" fundraiser party was held at .