The 14th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will kick off Saturday, March 10, at 2 p.m. hosted by the North Fork Chamber of Commerce. This year, Paul Connor, CEO and president of Eastern Long Island Hospital, will serve as the grand marshal.
He has been CEO of ELIH for 19 years.
The parade route starts at the traffic light at Cox Lane, goes down Main Road and ends in Cutchogue Village.
Mr. Connor has also served as chairman of the board of directors of the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council — the association that represents Long Island’s 24 not-for-profit and public hospitals — and on the board of the East End Health Alliance, the parent organization of Long Island’s three East End hospitals.
We sat down with Mr. Connor to talk about the upcoming event.
Q: Are you Irish?
A: Yes, and with a name like Connor you almost have to be. I just researched my ancestry, so I know I’m about 25 percent Irish.
Q: How does it feel to be the grand marshal at the parade this year?
A: The way I view this is, because I’ve been here going on 19 years as the CEO of this hospital, I really see it as a recognition of Eastern Long Island Hospital and the importance of this hospital for its community and how important the community is for this hospital. Historically, we’ve always had an excellent relationship with the business community. This hospital came from the community and the business community has always supported us in anyway they can. ELIH is the first hospital in Suffolk County and the second hospital on Long Island. So having a hospital in the community is a tremendous economic benefit. We’re the largest employer out here.
Q: Do you have any Irish traditions?
A: No, we weren’t that Irish when we grew up. I just recognized, especially on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s more fun to be Irish. Mostly through my friends, you get into participating with the traditions. What I really like about St. Patrick’s Day is anything green. Corned beef and cabbage is amazing. I don’t know why I only eat it one day a year; I love it so much. Irish soda bread, green bagels, I like all that. I hardly ever think about when I have to wear a certain color each day. The only day I think about that is St. Patrick’s Day.
Q: What are you looking forward to most at the parade?
A: Well, last year was freezing cold, and the year before was raining. So the pressure is on for me now to deliver nice weather. It is a fun time. People love parades and we want to get out the hospital community to help support this as well. We expect to have a pretty good turnout.
Q: What should people know about this year’s parade?
A: It’s a special time in our history. For us, anytime we can be out in the community is a chance for community engagement. It’s a small parade, but it is enthusiastic.
Q: What is your favorite part of the holiday?
A: I love the notion that everyone becomes Irish on this day and the grand feeling that everyone has about being Irish for this particular day. I think it’s a very positive feeling. And out here, it’s a chance for people to get outside, assuming it’s going to be nice weather. You get stuck in January and February, and March is the first hope that spring is just around the corner. I always thought St. Patrick’s Day is the mark where spring really begins.
Photo caption: Paul Connor will lead the 14th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Cutchogue on March 10. (Credit: Rachel Siford)