As the 2023 begins, it’s not too early to prepare for Wantagh’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, and Michael Dunphy, owner of the Wantagh Inn, has been named its grand marshal.
Proudly brandishing a picture of his daughter’s college graduation and calling it “Simply the American dream,” Dunphy said he is ready to celebrate being an Irish-American.
St. Patrick’s Day is an annual celebration of Irish culture and heritage, and the Wantagh Chamber of Commerce said that Dunphy is well suited to help lead the festivities, having officially bestowed the honor on him in September.
Dunphy is the third person to be honored with the title of grand marshal since the chamber began holding the parade in 2019. The first was John Murray Jr., owner of Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall, and in 2020, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder was given the honor, although the parade was put on hold for two years due to Covid-19.
Murray and Ryder are both Americans of Irish descent, but Dunphy will be the first who was born in Ireland.
“We have a lot of residents with Irish heritage here in Wantagh,” Marilynne Rich, a chamber vice president, said. “This parade is a great way to honor that heritage, but also to honor the entire Wantagh community with such a fun event.”
Dunphy is a proud first-generation American. Born in the market town of Macroom in County Cork in 1941, he moved to London in 1963. Facing prejudice as an Irish person living in England, Dunphy arrived in the United States in 1969.
“This is the greatest country in the world,” Dunphy said. “Every day, I say, ‘God bless America.’”
Dunphy said his father’s siblings came to America in the early 20th century, while his father remained in Ireland to work as a policeman.
Dunphy first lived in Sunnyside, Queens, where he worked at the Red Blazer sports bar. In 1970, shortly after his arrival in the U.S., he met his wife, Geraldine, from Cavan, Ireland. Married in 1973, they will celebrate their 50-year anniversary in 2023. They have four children: Matthew, Conor, Ronan and Una.
The couple moved to Wantagh in 1973, and Dunphy continued working in a variety of positions at the Red Blazer, learning everything there is to know about owning and operating a bar. Chasing his American dream, Dunphy became a bar owner himself when he opened the Wantagh Inn in 1984. Located on Railroad Avenue, the Wantagh Inn has become a staple in Wantagh-Seaford.
“Wantagh is a great town for bars,” Dunphy said. “I think the reason could be the connection to Jones Beach. You have to go through Wantagh leaving Jones Beach, and that attracts bar-goers.”
Dunphy’s commitment to cultivating a sense of community in Wantagh is part of why he was named Grand Marshal by the chamber.
“We don’t have a village, so the way we’re set up, we rely on some businesses to help form a Wantagh community,” Rich said. “And Mr. Dunphy has been so supportive through the years in that regard. He knows everyone who comes through these bars. He even used to work late and drive patrons home to make sure everyone was safe.”
In his role as grand marshal, Dunphy will lead the parade, which Rich described as the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade on Long Island. He will be honored with the grand marshal’s walking stick, in a special “Grand Marshal dinner” at the Crest Hollow Country Club. The parade will take place on March 19.
“America’s love is for all of us,” Dunphy said. “Doesn’t matter if you’re German, Irish, to me all of these kinds of celebrations are about loving your neighbor. It is also about appreciating what we have in America, something a lot of us tend to take for granted.”