With less than a month away until the 50th annual Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick's Parade, Grand Marshal Mickey Valcich said he just hopes it all doesn't go by too quickly.
"I'm looking forward to the whole thing. It's going to be a good time," Valcich said from his newly renovated office overlooking Fort Pond. He'll be attending his first New York City St. Patrick's Parade on the holiday itself to march with the the week before and then gearing up for the annual the Friday before, the the night before, and finally the parade on March 25.
He's got the grand marshal's uniform all squared away; a tuxedo, sash, the ceremonial shillelagh – a wooden club – and a top hat that "fits fine, kind of snug," he said with a laugh. In fact, he wasn't sure the store would have one big enough for him. Confirmation of its big size came when he put it on his wife Valinda; it fell to her shoulders.
Valcich has certainly had a lot of time to find a hat that fits. Usually, the grand marshal isn't announced until a few months before the parade, but he's known since June. With the half-century anniversary approaching, the Friends wanted to place a plaque on the Montauk Green and needed to put the name of the 2012 grand marshal on it. During an in September, .
At 47, Valcich is younger than the parade itself. He grew up on the sidelines, watching the parade grow in size. He remembers when the parade route went in the opposite direction, toward the instead of away from it — undoubtedly with a lot fewer people crowding the streets.
The parade and its aftermath has also become rowdier with time. For the 50th parade, the Friends of Erin has decided to move up the parade to 10 a.m. in the hopes of attracting fewer — more sober — folks, and less problems. Valcich is hoping it will be more of a family affair.
Valcich's has experienced the parade as a marcher. For the past five years, he has walked with the 's junior firefighters, a group he helped to organize in 2006.
A former lieutenant with Company #1, he has also served as a first and second assistant fire chief. He said the junior program has been successful in recruiting the younger generation. His son Tyler, now 18, was a charter member (he also has a daughter, Carin, 22). "It's very important to the community — just the future of the fire department," he said, adding joining the fire department as a teen was something he wished he could have done.
Born in Elmhurst, Queens, to a German-Croation family, Valcich grew up in Montauk, where his parents moved full-time when he was 3 years old. They owned several businesses, including Four Oaks, Oasis Motel and a restaurant. A year after graduating with the Class of 1982, he started his first business . And in 1986 he started . Between the two, there are about 50 employees.
He equates his success to a lot of hard work. "There was a lot of trial and error and more error than trial," he said.
While he hasn't been given any inside-advice on how to handle the roast and the antics leading up to the parade from those who have come before him, he has known many of the last 49 grand marshals well, like his kindergarten teacher Peg Joyce (1993) to (2010).
"It's an honor to be amongst that crowd," he said. He just hopes no one is expecting the shillelagh — or the top hat — back.