YONKERS, N.Y. – A retired Yonkers firefighter and his band mates have become the face of a St. Patrick’s Day parade some 800 miles away.
Maurice “Doc” Foley’s image was captured by an Associated Press photographer as he led the Yonkers Fire Department Pipes and Drum Crop through the streets of Savannah, Ga., during the city’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration Saturday.
A day later, the photograph had been featured in several newspapers and national media outlets, including MSN and Yahoo photo galleries of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the country.
“Just to see Doc smile and see his family calling him nonstop – it was just a great feeling to see him on there,” said Band Master and Yonkers Firefighter Denis Flavin. “He is a major part of the band and to see him be the face of the parade was awesome.”
Foley and Flavin were among roughly 50 members of the Yonkers Pipe and Drum Corps who headed to Georgia for the 189th marching of the parade.
Started in 1824, it has grown into a festive party and the highlight of a week-long celebration that has become the southern city’s most profitable tourist event. Flavin said the atmosphere at the parade, billed as the world’s second largest, was electric.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “It’s Mardi Gras wrapped around New York City.”
Saturday marked the second time Yonkers Firefighters Pipes and Drums, who have also marched in Manhattan and several local parades, have visited Georgia for St. Patrick’s Day.
On Friday, the group toured Savannah, playing in various streets of the mid-sized southern city. And while thousands marched through the snow Saturday in New York City’s parade, Yonkers firefighters enjoyed mid-summer weather down in the deep south.
“It was 78 degrees down there,” Flavin said. “We had out sunglasses on. It was like marching at the end of June.”
As the band was preparing to step off for the morning celebration, Flavin said Foley told him a photographer had taken a picture of him. The widely published photo depicted a smiling Foley leading the band down a narrow street as the city hall building shone brightly in the background.
“We had a lot going on so I didn’t think too much of it,” Flavin said.
But when they got back to their hotel, the picture flashed across the screen on MSN. Now, the retired firefighter has become the face of the parade, with the picture having been used to represent Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities in newspapers and media outlets across the country.
“The way they captured the capitol in the background – it really was the perfect shot,” Flavin said.