Just a few days after a messy mid-March Noreaster dumped ice and snow on the streets of New York City, 5th Avenue was changed into a sea of green. Over a million people came out to celebrate the 255th version of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. There’s always been a strong bond between Ireland and New York City. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and also the patron saint of the archdiocese of New York City where millions of Catholics call home. The parade helps bring unity between the people of Ireland and New York. Each county in Ireland is represented with their proud tribute to St. Patrick by raising their banners high. As usual in these large parades, the NYPD Mounted Guard signaled the start of the parade. The crowd was getting worked up on a chilly morning in anticipation for a fun-filled day. They were not let down as the traditional show of force kicked off the parade with the true Fighting Irish, the Army 69th Regiment, marching up 5th Ave. Soon after, parade Grand Marshall Michael J Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, made his appearance. This marks the first time a hospital head served as the Grand Marshall of this historic parade. Glad to see he is in good health because in this parade everyone marches. There are no floats or cars. Just plenty of pipe and drum bands and marching bands celebrating an important event in NYC. As a display of unity, the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drum Band got things started. They were great. That section had both NYPD and Garda Siochana (Guardians of the Peace of Ireland) marching together.
Each county in Ireland sends their representatives to march in the parade. This year Donegal started things off. A family that always goes to the parade, the half-mad McLaughlin’s from Brooklyn always whoop it up when they see their county march up 5th Ave. They are a blast to hang with even if it’s for a few minutes. Next to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has some of the best marching bands from all over the country on display. The first to make their way were the Vikings from Vernon NJ. They were really good. Right behind them came the Air Force Junior ROTC from Randolph-Macon in Virginia. They displayed all 50 state flags. The hits kept coming when the Stratford CT HS Marching Band showed their drum line skills. Impressive.
The parade has always had an international appeal to it and this year the Badad de Lorient from Brittany France really got the crowd worked up. They were mixed in with the Spanish section. This is the 6th year the Asturia section sends their Spanish bagpipe band. They were excellent. Not to be outdone were the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drum Band. They always put on a great show and warm the hearts of many Irish. One part of the parade that always hits home is when the 343 group march. These are firefighters that carry 343 US flags representing the number of firefighters that made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11. It really is an amazing and patriotic sight to see. They were followed by family members of lost ones carrying photos of their loved ones.
Two of the better marching bands are perennial favorites. They have the best uniforms and can really play well. The first was the Highlander Band from West Milford NJ with a mashup of both traditional marching band music and bagpipes. Great job. A yearly favorite came down from Londonderry New Hampshire. They were fired up for the parade. Pipe and drum bands from both Suffolk and Nassau Counties in Long Island did a great job. The Golden Eagles Marching Band from Ohio and Desoto Central HS Marching Band from Mississippi were having lots of fun at the parade. They made their schools proud. If this is any indication of how the 2017 parade season will be, it will surely be a memorable year.