Feb. 18, By Christian Murray
The 16th annual Sunnyside/Woodside ‘St. Pat’s for All’ parade is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 1—and will feature puppets, stilt walkers and plenty of Irish music.
The St. Pat’s For All parade is arguably this neighborhood’s most popular event. When it began 16 years ago, it was largely a gay-pride parade – organized by a number of Irish men and women who were not allowed to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Ave under a gay banner.
Today, the Sunnyside/Woodside parade draws plenty of seniors, children, minorities, to even the local dog group–Sunnyside United Dog Society.
“We are the opening act for all the parades around the city that celebrate the fun and festivities of Ireland,” said Brendan Fay, a gay Irishman and co-chair of the event. The event, he said, always takes place on the first Sunday in March.
Fay said he is expecting more than 2,000 people to participate this year. However, there could be more. He said that there is still time for community groups to sign up and that those interested just need to go to the St Pat’s for All website and register.
The event this year will begin at Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street and will end at 56th and Skillman. Music and speeches will begin at 1 pm, with the parade kicking off at 2pm.
The parade will feature many of the same groups that have been coming for years—such as the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance, the Shannon Gaels Gaelic Football Club, the girl scouts, Swim Strong, The Red Cross, and Sunnyside Community Services. This year, five marching bands have already signed up as well as several Irish musicians.
Several well-known gay groups, such as Dignity NY, Lavender and Green Alliance (an Irish LGBT group), Stonewall Democrats of NYC and the Queens Lesbian & Gay Pride Committee are expected to march.
This year’s parade comes at a time when the Fifth Avenue parade is allowing one gay group to march– under the banner of the gay NBCUniversal employees. However, none of the Irish gay groups are permitted to march and gay activists will be protesting the event again this year.
Fay, however, said that the Sunnyside-Woodside event would carry on even if gay groups were allowed to participate in the Fifth Avenue parade.
“When it was announced that one gay group was allowed, I was asked what would happen to the our parade if it [the Fifth Avenue parade] were open to all gay groups,” Fay said.
He said the Sunnyside/Woodside event would continue.
Fay said that the parade is no longer a gay event but a community event, where all sorts of groups participate.
“This parade is special,” Fay said. “Sunnyside and Woodside have increasingly embraced the parade as their own– and different groups continue to want to participate.”
He said local businesses—such as bars and restaurants–have got behind the event.
Ten bars and restaurants known as Sunnyside’s Boulevard Bars are hosting a joint Irish music festival, where Irish bands will play at their respective pubs after the parade.
Meanwhile, several bars/restaurants on Skillman Avenue are expected to be offering specials.
For Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, the other co-chair of the event, the parade is also about embracing immigrant groups and other cultures.
There will be groups representing Turkey, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Romania—and several Jackson-Heights-based Muslim centers, D’Arcy said.
This year’s two grand marshals are Kerry Kennedy, who is the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and Brian F. O’Byrne, a well-known Broadway and movie actor.
Fay said that the St. Pat’s For All parade has become a model for parades around the country—where various ethnic groups are celebrated and where there is inclusion of LGBT groups.
However, the No. 7 train will not be running between Times Square and 74th Street on the weekend of the event.
Fay said that they have reached out to the MTA to see whether its construction schedule can change on the day of the event. They have not heard back from the MTA.
Date: Sunday, March 1
Time: speeches at 1pm, parade kicks off at 2 pm
Begins: Corner of Skillman Ave. and 43rd Street