Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

“Great Day for Irish, for City”

2024 Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade
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Peekskill St Patricks Day Parade starting in 2019. Photo credit: Peekskill St Patricks Day Committee

Since its inception in 1990, the Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade has been a staple of the City of Peekskill. The parade, sponsored by volunteers of the Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Committee, is the first outdoor community event that brings people out of the comforts of their wintering homes and unofficially ushers in the beginning of Spring. The annual Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade will officially kick off on Saturday, March 9th at 3pm with Joe Brady leading the march just as he has every year since the very first one.

The parade route steps off near the Assumption Church. It makes its way down South Division Street passing by the BeanRunner Café, Esther Place, Bucko! Shop, Peekskill Coffee House, Gleason’s, Slainte, the Fern Tree, the Chamber of Commerce. It continues down North Division street through “Restaurant Row” past the Gazebo, Annabella’s Pizzeria, Rubens Mexican Cafe, G&H Jamaican Restaurant, Gauchos Brazillian Steakhouse, Taco District, Thaimless Thai, Whiskey River, Division Street Guitars, Speakeasy Tattoos, Quirkshop and the Digital Arts Center of Westchester Community College. The parade then makes a right turn at Busy Corner and travels along Main Street past RameNesque, Sun River Health Center, Pugsley Park, Terra Dulce Bakery, Valley Brook Market and the United Methodist Church of Peekskill. It makes a right turn on James street, passes by Dunkin Donuts, and proceeds down James passing the James Street garage to the reviewing stand located on the corner of James and Park Street and then makes a quick turn onto Brown Street where the parade ends. The rain date for the Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade this year is Saturday, March 23, 2024 following the same route and the same starting time.

2024 Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Route

The Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade roots

The first annual Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade was held in March of 1990. Earlier that year, as Chairman Emeritus of Peekskill St. Patrick’s Committee, 2007 Grand Marshal, and former TV host of St. Patrick’s parades from 1990-2019, William “Bill” Powers explains, “Pride In Peekskill” was charged with developing a series of events to celebrate the City’s 50th Anniversary. The non-profit group’s first big public endeavor, with $500 in start-up money from the mayor and Peekskill Common Council and encouragement from the Irish community, would be a St. Patrick’s Parade.” That year, the committee selected the first Grand Marshal to the St. Patrick’s Parade, the beloved Dr. John McGurty, Sr. “With a beaming smile and friendly wave, the very dapper-looking Irishman named McGurty, clad in a tuxedo and top hat, was buoyed by the throngs of well-wishers who came to see the first parade and the first Grand Marshal” explains Powers.

The crowds come every year regardless of the weather. Estimates of the first parade held in the evening ranged to be 3,000 people. Every year since, the estimates fluctuate. Crowds have watched as the marchers carry on the annual tradition through beautiful warm nights, and through rain and snow flurries. Back then, and one of this year’s St. Patrick’s Parade Aides, former Peekskill Mayor Richard Jackson, Jr. was quoted as saying, “Today we’re all Irish. We can share the joy of our neighbor’s heritage…We should do it more often.”

As Bill Powers mentions, “The parade is a mainstay in the City of Peekskill—one of the last remaining branded events in Peekskill. The warmth of the community and the brevity of the parade route make the Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade a favorite of bands and community groups.”

2024 Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Grand Marshal and Aides

The 2024 Grand Marshal and Aides

The 2024 Peekskill St. Patrick’s Parade Grand Marshal is Peekskill’s very own, and former NYS Governor, George E. Pataki.George Pataki is a beloved Peekskillian. He was born and raised in Peekskill and graduated from Peekskill High School. George Pataki served as the Mayor of Peekskill from 1981 to 1984, in the New York State Assembly and Senate from 1985 to 1994, and three terms as the 53rd Governor of the State of New York from 1995 to 2006. Pataki’s statewide political career took off in 1994 when, running as a little-known first-term Republican state senator, he stunned political veterans by upsetting incumbent Governor Mario M. Cuomo. As governor during the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks, Pataki led the State through mourning and remembrance, as well as recovery and rebirth. He spearheaded the rebuilding of Ground Zero—highlighted by the creation of the 9-11 memorial, the Freedom Tower and the transformation of Lower Manhattan into a 24/7 work-live community. In July 2002, Pataki dedicated The Irish Hunger Memorial at Battery Park City. During his tenure as NYS Governor, Pataki secured funding for the refurbishment of the Paramount marquee, cleaned up the Hudson River, and relocated the New York State Department of Workers Compensation to Peekskill.

Former NYS Governor, George E. Pataki
Photo Credit: George E. Pataki Facebook Page

Pamela Sgroi is one of the 2024 aides to the Grand Marshal this year. Commonly and affectionately known as “Officer Pam,” Sgori started her career as a Police Officer with the City of Peekskill in 2003. In 2006, Officer Pam successfully completed the DARE training course going on to teach the DARE curriculum to 5th grade students in both the Peekskill City School District and in the Hendrick Hudson School District. That led to her become a dedicated member of the department’s Community Policing Unit in 2008. Eventually, as the result of her community involvement, Officer Pam would go o to become the School Resource Officer in the Peekskill Middle School. Officer Pam’s other involvements and responsibilities within the department included: participating in and coordinating The Peekskill Youth Police Academy, initially as an instructor in 2006, and later, program coordinator in 2013; assisting with and participation in many community events, where more often than not, she is spotted dancing; filling the roles of Property and Evidence Officer, Training Officer and Discovery Officer.

Officer Pamela “Pam” Sgroi
Photo Credit: Peekskill Police Department Facebook Page

 

Richard E. Jackson Jr. is a political trailblazer and another Aide to the Grand Marshal. He was the first African-American to serve as mayor of a city in the history of New York, the first African-American to serve as Mayor of Peekskill, and the first African American to serve as City Councilman in Peekskill. A three-term Peekskill Common Councilmember, Jackson was appointed Mayor of Peekskill in December 1984 by a unanimous vote of the City Council when the previous mayor and best friend, George Pataki, stepped down to serve in the New York State Assembly. He continued to teach mathematics at Peekskill High School (1967–1995) while serving in his part-time mayoral post. Jackson won a full term as mayor in 1985 and later won re-election to two successive terms. Jackson stepped aside as Mayor in April 1991 to focus on his family and his full-time job as educator. But in 1995, Jackson returned to the public service when he joined Gov. Pataki’s cabinet as New York State’s Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. Jackson served as commissioner from 1995 to 2000. After retiring from state government, he went back to his first love of teaching, serving as math teacher, adjunct professor and math consultant. Jackson returns to Peekskill to visit friends and family from time-to-time and was honored previously in Peekskill when he was selected to be the first-ever Juneteenth Parade Grand Marshal in June 2011.

Former Peekskill Mayor Richard Jackson

 

Edward Eugene Peterson, Jr. is a third Aide to the Grand Marshal this year. “Pete,” as he is affectionately known, re-wrote his job description of “security aide” during his 24 years at Peekskill High School to include role model, mentor and friend to students and their families. He is also credited with being the engine of community pride and goodwill both inside and outside the school system. Peterson often put in 12-hour days in service to students. When regular school hours ended, he
went on to the Elton Brand Academy, an after-school program where he distributed snacks and supported educational and recreational activities. He often ended his day at school sports, serving as DJ and announcer. Pete retired in December 2016, but continues his involvement with the school district by DJ-ing at sporting events and other school and public functions. Many students have benefited from Peterson’s attention and wisdom over the years, including NBA Star and Peekskill grad Elton Brand. Among his many recognitions, honors and accolades, in 2017, Pete was selected as one of the Grand Marshals of the 7th Annual Juneteenth Parade under the theme, “Standing Strong Together.” He has also been honored by the Peekskill Youth Bureau and PHS Black Culture Club, Westchester County and New York State. He was also a founding member of the First City of Peekskill Annual African American Festival, and host of two cable access shows, “Strictly Rap” and “Soulful Sounds.”

Edward Eugene Peterson, Jr.
affectionately known as “Pete” Peterson

 

Father Vernon Wickrematunge is the fourth aide to the Grand Marshal this year. “Father Vernon,” was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and raised in Kaluwella, Galle, Sri Lanka an island off the southern tip of India. Father Vernon arrived in the United States in August 1993 to serve the Archdiocese of New York. His first parish assignment was at Sacred Heart Church in Monroe, NY in Orange County. He served the congregation there until January 13, 2000. Father Vernon was then assigned to the Church of the Assumption as Parochial Vicar, from 2000 until 2014. On August 1, 2014, he became Parochial Vicar at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Cortlandt Manor, New York where he still serves today. His spiritual contributions to the Peekskill-Cortlandt area have made a dramatic impact on residents and parishioners alike during his tenure at both the Church of the Assumption in Peekskill, New York and, currently, the Church of the Holy Spirit in Cortlandt Manor, New York. Father Vernon has served as Chaplain of the Peekskill Fire Department and as the Chaplain at Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor, New York.

Father Vernon Wickrematunge
Photo Credit: Peekskill Volunteer Fire Dept Facebook Page

 

About the Contributor
As a Peekskill native, Dave is thrilled to be working with the Peekskill Herald showcasing featured calendar events. A 1999 graduate of PHS, he remembers reading and enjoying the original weekly print edition of the Peekskill Herald every Thursday. He especially liked the political stories, local features and sports coverage when it was written by Peekskill Runner columnist Jack Burns who always managed to weave history into the running times. An avid hiker, he enjoys exploring the local trails as well as the concrete ones in his job as a conductor for Metro North Railroad. He’s a former teacher and co-founder of the Friends of the Peekskill Dog Park, where he frequently can be found with his Koda. He’s happy to be part of the Herald’s growth as the source of local news for Peekskill and looks forward to highlighting a few of many of the events and happenings in Peekskill and the surrounding communities. Reach Dave at [email protected]