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Mar 13, 2012 4:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Resident Will Lead Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day Parade

Mar 13, 2012 4:52 PM

Francis (Frank) X. Comerford recalls marching in his first New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parades 40 years ago, when he was a teenager attending Xavier High School in Manhattan.

The part-time Westhampton Beach resident, who serves as chief revenue officer and president of commercial operations for the NBC-owned television stations in Manhattan, will have a much different vantage point for the 251st annual parade that steps-off this Saturday, March 17, at 11 a.m.

He will be leading it.

“As grand marshal, I get to see the scope of it,” Mr. Comerford said this week, prior to attending the 45th annual Westhampton Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade this past Saturday. “There have been people working on it all year long. The whole metropolitan area comes together for the parade.”

As always, an estimated 2 million people are expected to converge on New York City on St. Patrick’s Day to watch the festivities.

Working in the television industry for more than three decades, Mr. Comerford said he has viewed past St. Patrick’s Day Parades mostly from a broadcasting perspective in recent years. He has watched the parade grow over time and described it as a social event that he looks forward to every year.

Even though he sits on the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Board of Trustees, Mr. Comerford said he does not know why he was tapped for the honor this year. Still, he said he is both excited and honored to have been selected.

“It’s a privilege and an honor you would never expect,” he said, adding that it will give him a grand opportunity to celebrate his “Irish pride.”

Mr. Comerford, who traces his Irish heritage to County Kilkenny in Ireland, splits his time between his primary residence in Bay Ridge and his family’s summer home near the Westhampton Country Club in the village. He and his wife, Maura, have a 3-year-old son, Frank X. Comerford Jr.

“The parade began with Irish soldiers serving in the British Army prior to the Revolutionary War and it’s a way of celebrating culture, religion and heritage,” Mr. Comerford said, referring to the New York City parade.

He said he’s also excited that this year’s event is dedicated to members of America’s armed forces. “Considering what we are going through around the world, recognition of veterans is really important to me—so this year’s parade is about saluting out veterans,” Mr. Comerford said.

As grand marshal, his day on Saturday will begin at 8:30 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, will host a ceremony in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, followed by the celebration of Mass. Mr. Comerford will then join parade organizers for breakfast. At around 10:45 a.m., he will head over to 5th Avenue for the 11 a.m. parade kickoff. The procession traditionally travels up 5th Avenue, starting at 45th Street and ending 86th Street.

Once he reaches the end of the parade route—exactly when that happens will depend on his pace—Mr. Comerford will head on over to the official reviewing stand that will be set up on 64th Street. He will continue to watch the parade from the stand until sometime between 4 and 5 p.m., when it typically ends.

Mr. Comerford began his career in the television industry in 1981, working with Storer Television Sales in New York City and later holding sales manager positions at WSBK-TV in Boston from 1986 to 1994. He then joined NBC in New York, starting out in sales and eventually being promoted to vice president of sales for WNBC. Between 1999 and 2002, Mr. Comerford served as executive vice president of sales and marketing for the NBC-owned stations group. He eventually became president and general manager of NBC’s flagship station—WNBC in New York—managing all commercial efforts for the division’s 10 television stations, online properties and digital out-of-home division.

Last Saturday, Mr. Comerford was taking in the sights during Westhampton Beach’s annual parade, which he described as a microcosm of Manhattan’s event.

“It’s a neighborhood parade,” he said. “I live in the city and when I come out for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Westhampton Beach, I see people that I don’t see all year and the parade means spring is here.”

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