On Being Elvis: St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Montauk

Ellen Dioguardi and David Gribon as Elvis in Montauk's St. Patrick's Day Parade
Ellen Dioguardi and David Gribon as Elvis in Montauk's St. Patrick's Day Parade, Photo: Courtesy of Ellen Dioguardi

I grew up with a mother who loved parades.

As a Girl Scout leader the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades were something she looked forward to all year. She always made sure each girl got a chance to carry one of the two flags (American and Girl Scout) by having them rotate as they marched with military precision.

I can still hear her counting off as we marched “Left, left, I had a good job but I left, left my wife and 16 kids I left…” Not so sure the Girl Scouts would have approved but we got a big kick out of it.

So it’s not a total shock to find out that I married a man who also loves parades. I just didn’t know it until last year when he heard we could join Montauk rocker Nancy Atlas and her “Elvis Group” in the Montauk St. Patrick’s Day Parade. That’s when the nudging began. I was not totally enamored of the idea of dressing up as Elvis and being out in the cold in Montauk all day. After almost 30 years on the East End I’d managed to avoid the “scene” that is the Montauk parade and was happy with that.

Fate took it out of my hands, I had a baby shower for my cousin that day and we couldn’t do it. Sorry, David. Thanks, Nancy, but we’ll have to pass.

This long winter has been broken up for us by the Friday night Fireside Sessions with Nancy Atlas. So every Friday the nudging on the part of my husband began again, “Has Nancy mentioned the Elvis parade?” or “Can we be in the parade this year?” or “How do I order an Elvis wig?” He was relentless. How does one say NO to a husband who asks for so little?

A quick Google search revealed Elvis wigs, costumes, sunglasses and much more all readily available for purchase online. Now to find a convertible to drive. A post on Facebook to my amazing friends got us two offers of convertible Volkswagens. By March 17 we were all hooked up for the parade on the 24th.

On Saturday night I made six banana and peanut butter sandwiches (an Elvis favorite) and, the Girl Scout training kicking in, packed up an emergency kit — safety pins, tape, a sewing kit, protein bars and band-aids. Yes, I was prepared. Or so I thought.

Turns out really nothing can prepare you for a day spent with 22 Elvi, but that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

We arrived in Montauk at 10:15 a.m., pulled over by Sole East and tricked out the car as best we could. All dressed in our wigs and sunglasses, we continued on the back route to the parade lineup. We were stopped by a police officer who gave us a look and commented, “I guess you’re in the parade” just as I got a text message informing all Elvi that we were at the very end of the parade lineup. It wasn’t hard to find our group — we just looked for everyone in big, black wigs.

By 11:15 a.m. just about our whole group had assembled. There was hockey player Elvis, tutu Elvis, Liberace Elvis, Rat Pack Elvis, two vintage Caddies, a boat full of young Elvi dancing their hearts out, speakers blasting Elvis hits and a Montauk fisherman on a uni-cycle with a hula hooping partner.

And then we waited… and waited… and waited…. I think we finally started moving at about 1 p.m. (the parade is set to start at 11:30 a.m.). By the time we’d gone about a mile, we started seeing firemen and other parade participants walking BACK to their cars. They were DONE. We’d only just started out. This is one BIG parade.

Our borrowed Cabrio convertible with the license plate “WOOOHOO” anchored the Elvis lineup, as the anchor of the entire parade. I was at the wheel. Sitting on the back right behind the driver’s seat through the entire parade was my very happy husband screaming, “I’m Elvis!” and “Elvis lives in Montauk” and “Wooohoo” while he tossed candy and beads to the crowd.

The thought “Who did I marry?” crossed my mind a few times, but mostly I laughed and smiled and tried very hard not to crash into Anthony on the unicycle, Sheila tossing candy, Peter the hockey player, or the back of Nancy’s 1969 Caddie.

I’d sworn to David on Saturday night that we were doing this ONCE and all Elvis garb would be donated to the cause at the end of the day. I gave up on that thought somewhere around 10:45 a.m. that morning when I couldn’t get the big, stupid grin off my face. We’ll be back again next year, if Nancy will have us.

I already have a list of what to bring, hairnets, bobby pins, more candy, fingerless gloves, duct tape and a good dose of total, wild abandon.

The Montauk Elvises

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