Every day, Michael Dunphy proudly says, “God bless America,” and that pride was on full display in Wantagh last Sunday, as Dunphy led Wantagh’s St. Patrick’s Day parade as its grand marshal.
Wantagh’s is the biggest parade on Long Island and a celebration of both Irish and American culture, which is why Dunphy, the longtime owner of the Wantagh Inn, was chosen to lead the 2023 parade.
As grand marshal, Dunphy joined the likes of John Murray Jr., owner of Mulcahy’s Pub, and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder with this distinction. He was the third grand marshal in the history of the parade, which began in 2019 but was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid.
“It was always talked about in a town that wouldn’t it be great if we could have a St. Patrick’s Day parade,” Cathy McGrory Powell, president of the Wantagh Chamber of Commerce, said. “And it just happened that the year that we decided to do it, we did it on St. Patrick’s Day, which was a Sunday. And New York City doesn’t have parades on Sundays, so we said that would be a great time to kick it off.”
The grand marshals of Wantagh’s parades have been chosen based on their status as upstanding citizens in the community, and Murray Jr., Ryder, and Dunphy all fit that criteria, according to the chamber.
“We’d like to figure if somebody either has an establishment or has been a resident of Wantagh for many years and has given back to the community, they deserve to be recognized with this distinction,” McGrory Powell added.
Dunphy is Wantagh’s first grand marshal to be born in Ireland. He came to America in 1969 and married his wife, Geraldine, in 1973, the same year they moved to Wantagh. Dunphy opened the Wantagh Inn in 1984, and it has become a fixture in the community ever since.
“The Wantagh Inn has always had that warmth, that inviting feeling,” McGrory Powell said. “It’s always beautiful. The staff is always great. The food is always great. We are just grateful that he chose our town to open that inn.”
While Dunphy said he often thinks about Ireland, he loves America and is grateful to both the country and to Wantagh for giving him the American dream.
“America’s love is for all of us,” Dunphy told the Herald in January. “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.”
Murray Jr. was selected as grand marshal in 2019 because Mulcahy’s is an extremely recognizable establishment throughout the county, and he has opened Mulcahy’s doors to charity fundraisers, school clubs and sporting events.
“They’ve always been available when the community has come knocking at their door,” McGrory Powell said of Murray Jr. and Mulcahy’s.
Ryder’s work as police commissioner has made him stand out, particularly with the job he has done fighting catalytic converter thefts, the parade’s organizers said. But Ryder is also a resident of Wantagh, and someone chamber of commerce officials said they could always rely on. Therefore, Ryder was named grand marshal in 2020, but since both the 2020 and 2021 parades were cancelled due to Covid, Ryder became the longest standing grand marshal so far.
“We took everything from 2020, pressed pause, and pressed play two years later,” McGrory Powell said of the 2022 parade, which was led by Ryder.