The mostly overcast day gave everyone a hint that warmer weather for NYC is finally on the way. As I turned up 5th Ave. around 49th St., the sidewalks were about 10 deep or more anxiously waiting for the parade to kick off. The patron saint of both the City of New York and Ireland, St. Patrick’s devotees come together from the USA and Ireland to celebrate Irish culture, contribution and tradition. This year’s version had a greater international influence than in previous years. Marching bands came from afar as Japan, France, Canada, Chile and Argentina. They were all well received by the more than 1 million revelers that lined up 5th Ave. to see the granddaddy of them all. The St. Patrick’s Day parade is the oldest parade in the nation celebrating its 254th year. It was great to see people from all nationalities wearing something green in honor of the shamrock and Irish pride and culture. As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade. It didn’t take much to get the crowd cheering. As a show of force, the parade kicked off with the original fighting Irish; the Army 69th Regiment with their signature pair of Irish Wolfhounds howling to get started. This historic group was the first military personnel to respond to the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then, 24 members have been killed defending our freedom and serving our country.This years parade was dedicated to those fallen heroes and their families.
A parade this large could not go on without some controversy. Mayor DeBlasio refused to march in the parade because parade organizers would allow only one gay and lesbian groups to march; Out@NBCUniversal. It’s a step in the right direction but not enough and protester made their point along the parade route near 56th St. Parade Grand Marshall Cardinal Timothy Dolan, from the Archdiocese of New York, got the crowd worked up. He’s beloved by the millions of Catholics living in the Tri-state area. Getting a nice reception from the crowd was Officer McDonald, a living symbol of love and forgiveness. One of the more impressive pipe and drums band was from the NYPD Emerald Society. They really got the crowd worked up. An annual favorite is the sleek Dover HS Marching Band. Representatives from all the Armed Forces sent their bands to play and march but the Navy band surged ahead of the others.
Groups from all the counties in Ireland made their way up the parade route. They were wishing all the revelers a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. More fun came when bands from all parts of the world marched and played some really good music. The award-winning band from Osaka, Japan was really having a good time and worked the crowd. The band from Brittany, France played their own kind of bagpipes and performed a traditional dance. They were a definite crowd pleaser. The wind started kicking up in just what appeared to be an appropriate moment. The FDNY group of 343 marched to the applaud of the crowd. This group reminds everyone of the 343 firefighters that gave the ultimate sacrifice on the Sept. 11 attacks. The firefighters carrying the flags had to use some force to keep the flags from falling backwards because of the wind gusts. When the 343 flags marched passed me, people were yelling “we will never forget” and there were even a few USA chants heard. That chant brought me back to Game 3 of the 2001 World Series in the Old Yankee Stadium. My friend Nelson and I drove 5 hours from a contingency site in New Hampshire to be part of the Fall Classic and yell out loud USA..USA..USA after President Bush threw a strike to catcher Jorge Posada. Chills ran up and down my spine in probably one of the best moments ever in Yankee Stadium. Yes. We will never forget.
All the parochial high schools in the tri-state area get to march in the parade with the band from Londonderry Ct. being one of the crowd favorites. Looks as though parade organizers are trying to compete with Macy’s Thanksgiving parade for the most out-of-town marching bands to perform. Bands came in from Utah, Kansas, California but the most notable were from Roane HS Tennessee and Hoover HS from Alabama. The kids had a great time and it was probably their first time in the Big Apple for many of them. Some of best dressed pipe and drum bands had to be ones from the Police Emerald Society of Westchester with their snazzy yellow tartans. One of the best sounding pipe and drums band had to be the Suffolk County Pipes and Drum band.
If this is a precursor to the parade lineup for this year, New Yorkers and tourists will have a fantastic time. The parade was energetic and full of cheer and good will. I was really glad to be Irish for just one day.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2015