The Grand Marshal of this year’s 15th annual Hampton Bays St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Stephen Lemanski, has spent more than a decade serving and supporting the parade he will now lead on Saturday, March 23.
The 64-year-old owner of Southampton Engineering and Southampton Building received the good news last November at an end-of-the-year gathering of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) Michael Collins Division 11 and the Hampton Bays Hibernians, where he was also named Man of the Year. Chosen by Parade Committee vote, Lemanski says the title is usually bestowed upon a productive and involved member who shows leadership in both Irish Catholic organizations.
“It was a total surprise…I was a little taken aback,” he recalls of receiving the honor. “I’ve been involved in the planning of the parade for the last 11 years,” Lemanski continues, noting that he’s only marched for the past three years, since he was elected President of his AOH Division 11, a position that put him just behind previous grand marshals on parade day. Before that, he always played a hands-on, support role, “working the pit.”
A Bronx native, East Ender for the last 40 years, and father of five, Lemanski says he only became active in the AOH after his children went off to college. Before that, he lived in Water Mill and served as president of the school board at Our Lady of the Hamptons, which he also helped rebuild. He also coached Catholic Youth Organization basketball, girls’ softball, and Southampton Town little league. Once the kids were grown, Lemanski joined the Southampton Golf Club, moved to East Quogue and jumped into AOH with both feet.
He’s now very actively involved in the AOH’s many charitable efforts. “We do a lot of fundraising,” Lemanski says. “Our focus is on the poor and needy.” Additionally, the group does much to keep Irish culture and traditions alive in the local community. This year, for example, they’re raising awareness of the 100th anniversary of the Irish Republic using their green, white and orange tri-color flag during the Irish War of Independence. “There is a huge Irish community from Hampton Bays to Montauk. I love the heritage we share, the history and the camaraderie,” Lemanski says.
Separate from the AOH, the Hampton Bays Hibernians was created solely to organize and fund the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Lemanski’s mother Julia O’Meara’s family hails from Tipperary, a rural county in Ireland’s Munster province, and he continues to carry on that heritage. At home, his wife Elizabeth Reilly cooks a great lamb shepherd’s pie, and he definitely enjoys a pint of Guinness or a dram of Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Though Lemanski says he doesn’t need to do much in preparation for the parade—at least the grand marshal part—he plans to march in his father in-law’s Irish cap, along with an off-white, cable-knit Aran Islands sweater owned by the father of his college roommate. But he has yet to decide on the remainder of his parade outfit. “I’m working from the top down,” Lemanski says.
The 15th Annual Hampton Bays St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins in front of the Hampton Bays Middle School at 70 Ponquogue Avenue on Saturday, March 23 at 11 a.m., and concludes by the Medical Atrium at 182 Montauk Highway. Visit the Ancient Order of Hibernians Hampton Bays Michael Collins Division 11 website at hbaohdivision11.com.