Mar 3, 2023
Dennis Dwyer (Photo provided)
SARANAC LAKE — Longtime Saranac Laker Dennis Dwyer has been named grand marshal of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in Saranac Lake.
The parade’s grand marshal is selected each year by a vote of its former grand marshals — Mike Ryan, Howard Riley, Ray Scollin, John Muldowney, Pat Finn, and Ron Keough. The 2021 St. Patrick’s Day parade was a virtual event due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Pat Finn retained her position for that year’s celebration.
Dwyer, the choice for this year’s grand marshal, will lead the parade from the Saranac Lake Post Office to the Harrietstown Town Hall at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 18.
“I am very pleased,” said Dwyer. “I was very much surprised.”
Dwyer worked for 40 years at St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers in Saranac Lake, primarily as the director of food service. He retired about 18 years ago. Originally from Yonkers, Dwyer served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years following high school, providing security at the National Security Agency. He then enrolled at Paul Smith’s College, where he met his future wife, Sue. They have three adult children — Kelly, a local school teacher, Dennis, who recently retired from the New York State Police, and Michael, an FBI agent and colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps.
The Dwyers trace their Irish roots back to Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, on Dennis’s side, and Dunn, County Limerick, on Sue’s side. Dwyer’s grandfather, Patrick J. Dwyer, was 10 years old when he took a boat from Ireland to New York City, on his own.
“His goal was to get out of Ireland,” said Dwyer. “He landed in New York City because there wasn’t a lot of growth or economic opportunity in Ireland. Not everyone wanted to be a farmer and make nothing but a living there. He worked his way up in the construction industry and helped build most of the East River Drive.”
Dennis and Sue have made six trips back to Ireland.
“It’s like stepping back in time,” said Dwyer. “Once, we were looking for driving directions and stopped at a little store to ask. No one had heard of the place we were headed. The young woman working behind the counter, a college student, said ‘People don’t travel much around here.’ Turned out, our destination was only 15 miles away.”
Asked what St. Patrick’s Day meant to him, Dwyer pointed to the layers of history and tradition surrounding the holiday.
“To those who truly understand the celebration, it’s significant. To everyone else, it’s just another fun day — but it goes much deeper than that,” he said.
Whereas the uninitiated reveler may look forward to wearing green and ordering the only pints of Guinness they’ll drink until the following St. Patrick’s Day, Dwyer pointed out that St. James’s Gate Brewery — founded in Dublin in 1759 by Arthur Guinness — is a company that “kept people working, kept them fed, during the Great Famine. That’s why the Irish are so loyal to the brand.”
“Guinness over there tastes a little different,” Dwyer said. “It used to be a little warmer, it goes down easier, and it sneaks up on you. Walking home on back country roads, one had to be very careful to avoid cows, potholes, things like that. The food, on the other hand, was always terrible. But it’s getting much better now.”
The evening before the parade, on Friday, March 17, the Saranac Lake Irish Gaelic Organization will host a cocktail reception in the Hotel Saranac’s Great Hall, beginning at 6 p.m. Through the generous assistance of Albany’s Irish American Heritage Museum, an exhibit entitled “Currachs and Culture on Ireland’s Islands” will be on public display.
Saranac Lake’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and festivities are planned by the Saranac Lake Irish Gaelic Organization (SLIGO), a group of residents dedicated to community service and the promotion and celebration of Irish and Irish-American history. Membership is open to anyone 18 years of age or older, regardless of heritage or religion.
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