As the wheel of life creaks forward, it reveals the early signs of the season of rebirth.
On Saturday, the Am O’ Gansett parade — which prides itself on being the shortest parade anywhere — kicked off at noon on Main Street in Amagansett.
Townsfolk lined the streets dressed in enough green to resemble human money trees. Dell Cullum, a wildlife rescuer, environmental activist, and town trustee, led the march with his big green hat and walking stick, like a dance to the ancient Celtic music of life itself.
“This started 10 years ago on a kind of a dare between friends,” says Patty Sales, the parade’s co-founder. “I’m all about St. Pat’s Day and I said, ‘Why don’t we have the shortest parade anywhere right here instead of going to Montauk for a big one?’ Someone said, ‘You can’t do that.’ So, I said, ‘Why not?’ So, we used green duct tape to stretch a green line from the middle of Indian Wells Tavern, down Main Street, [and] around the [Stephen] Talkhouse. We had a toy fire truck and a little toy horse and we marched one block down Main Street and back up.”
The parade had gotten a little more sophisticated over the past decade. “We still have the toy fire truck and toy horse but we have a real Hampton Jitney that drives down the street now,” Sales says, laughing. “We also have a real green line painter now instead of duct tape and a real parade permit and we make cupcakes and give them out at the library free to promote the Chamber of Commerce.”
This parade is now a festive farewell to the last icy days of winter, proud marchers holding banners for the kinds of organizations that keep a community alive: The Shoreline Sweep: The Great Montauk Clean-up, Girl Scout Troop 711, The East Hampton Group for Wildlife, Town of East Hampton Recycling and Litter Committee, and The Am O’Gansett Library. Cullum created the Shoreline Sweep.
Everyone there was celebrating this dress rehearsal for spring after a hibernating deep-freeze of Arctic Blasts, Canadian Clippers, Bomb Cyclones, Nor’easters, and other new fangled meteorological phrases that sound like the names of hockey teams.
This brief Irish march in the month of March now foretells Easter bonnets and chocolate bunnies and longer days and April showers that will bring May flowers which will bring pilgrims from all over the world to our glittering East End emerald of popping buds, verdant lawns, high lush hedges and leaf-shaded streets, white sails on blue waters lapping tan beaches that will soon be jammed with the thonged throngs of summer.
“It’s a way of saying we’re sick of winter and so let’s celebrate spring,” says Sales.
This was but one of a half dozen St. Patrick’s Day marches this month on the East End, with the Friends of Erin parade on March 25 always one of the largest in the state.
The wearin’ of the green at Montauk’s large St. Patrick’s Day Parade also means that this is the season of the spendin’ of the green. And so, the front doors of the eateries and watering holes of Montauk frozen shut by the coldest months of the year will soon be thawing open and putting locals back to work for the earnin’ of the green.
Parents will also start the countin’ of the green, comparative shopping for kids’ Easter clothes and summer camps, registering for the annual Easter Egg Hunt held on the Saturday before Easter by the Ladies’ Village Improvement Society, which just opened two new shops.
Younger kids search the Sunken Garden for candy-filled eggs. Older kids scour the entire LVIS grounds for thousands of eggs. Lucky kids who find one of the golden eggs win special prizes. All kids get to pose for pictures with the Easter Bunny.
All year round, LVIS lives up to its mission statement which could be written on a leaf blooming from the Tree of Life: “The purposes for which the society is formed are for the maintenance and preservation of historical landmarks and for the maintenance of ponds, parks, greens, and trees in the Village of East Hampton and vicinity, as well as for charitable and educational improvement and the advancement of the general welfare of the said Village of East Hampton and vicinity.”
That just about covers all of life in the East End.
When I first started coming to the Hamptons from crowded Brooklyn, I stayed with an older brother who had a summer rental on Dune Road. I loved the summers out here so much that I started booking hotel and condo rentals, like the Montauk Manor, in the fall and winter when the prices were lower and a restaurant tables easier to reserve.
I ended up renting year-round, writing in the daytime solitude and reading around a roaring fire on cold winter nights. But when the cymbals of parade season clashed in March, it was a special thrill to take my little kids to see the small-town spectacles of gleaming fire trucks, proud school bands, and local Celtic civic groups celebrating the Irish heritage that flowed through the centuries and across an ocean into the veins of my children.
It also told my kids that the Easter Bunny would soon be hopping their way, and then summer vacation would begin, and sleepover friends would visit for barbecues around the backyard pool, and they’d be riding the crazy waves on the nearby beaches.
When the kids got excited, it made me feel like a kid again too.
So as the parade season continues in the East End, the clock shoved ahead for a glorious extra hour of sunlight, I see green everywhere I look and I can now feel the warm breath of spring on the back of my neck.
It’s making me feel like a kid again. It’s making me feel alive.
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