Terry Watson will be the grand marshal of Montauk’s 53rd annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 22. She has lived in Montauk for 42 years and spoke about St. Patrick’s Day traditions and the changing face of Montauk.
When did you hear that you had been named this year’s grand marshal?
I’m not sure exactly of the date, but it was early in January, and I was in St. John, in the Virgin Islands, and I got a phone call and at first I didn’t take it seriously. You know George [Terry’s husband George Watson, owner of The Dock, is known to appreciate a good joke]. I didn’t take the phone call seriously at all, I just thought it was someone putting on an Irish accent and teasing me, You know what Montauk’s like. But then they asked me and I was stunned, and honored and humbled. I started to get pretty emotional, and so when they asked “Will you?” I just said “Yes… Okay, bye!” and hung up on them! I just had to get off the phone, I thought I was going to cry. It’s so exciting.
Has George been Montauk’s Grand Marshal before?
Yes he is, and I think we’re the third married couple to be grand marshals, separately of course.
Do you have a St. Patrick’s Day tradition of your own?
Actually, not so much anymore. When my children were younger, we always went to the parade, and when they went to high school they went to LaSalle and they always marched in the parade. So all the traditions we had kind of ended as they grew up, and it just became a question of walking down town and meeting friends. I did have a tradition with some women I played poker with; we would meet after the parade for an Irish whiskey toast.
So you’ve lived in Montauk for 42 years. You’ve seen it transformed over the years. Do you think Montauk is changing in a way that’s irreversible?
I’ve seen the most drastic change say within the last five, maybe even 10 years. Beginning with the Surf Lodge, and then going to the Ronjo and more recently the sale of East Deck and the proposed and pending sales of a few other places that certainly impact the nature of the community as it used to be, but could I say what that change means? I think it’s probably too soon to tell. Most of what’s happened is just an influx of new people and very, very busier seasons right now. It seems to be a different tourism, based more on a younger, maybe, dare I say, more moneyed group, than the families and fishermen that we used to. So yeah, there is a change, what it means I’m not sure. My husband is still very, very active in the business, and our son Chris is, and now there’s a third generation with baby Hayes [Ms. Watson’s newest grandson] growing up in the harbor area as well. We’re not changing, obviously, we’re just doing what we do.
What St. Patrick’s Day festivities are on your schedule for the next few days?
Well the parade [in the City] was on Tuesday, which I have to say was absolutely glorious because the sun came out and the St. Patrick’s Day feel in New York City, and in particular that part on Fifth Avenue, is really just great. So that got me all set. The next thing in a luncheon at Gurney’s on Friday, which is a tradition started by John and Marilyn Behan of grand marshals of the past honoring the current grand marshal, and it evolved from that. Joan Lycke will be hosting that. Then Saturday, also at Gurney’s, there will be a more music-centered, festive cocktail party. And then Sunday is the parade. I hope it’s a beautiful sunny day. Being grand marshal does involve doing a little bit of a pub crawl with the Friends of Erin, which is nice because the businesses are just opening back up for the season. Even if it snows, it’s still St. Patrick’s Day, you still know that the light has changed, the air has changed, and it’s coming.
Montauk’s 53rd St. Patrick’s Day Parade will start at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 22 on Edgemere Road. The parade will move from Edgemere Road down Main Street to downtown Montauk. For more information visit montaukfriendsoferin.org.