March 3, By Christian Murray
Kids from the Bronx, gay activists, die-hard Irishmen and, yes, plenty of politicians, all turned out for the 15th St. Pats for All Parade in Sunnyside/Woodside on Sunday.
The parade took on a very political flavor this year—with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is boycotting the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue, in attendance with more than 10 council members.
De Blasio told a large crowd at the beginning of the event that “this parade celebrates diversity, inclusion and unity and that is what this city is about.”
De Blasio said that when the parade got started 15 years ago, it was not easy getting it off the ground. “It, however, caught on because it was the right thing to do.”
“A lot of times you have to start things in the direction of progressive values and start a process of change… and over time people take to it and understand it is the right way,” he said.
The parade was established after Irish groups were prohibited from marching under gay banners on Fifth Ave. That policy continues and that is why de Blasio will not be attending the Manhattan event.
Melissa Mark-Viverito , the council speaker, said that this neighborhood’s St. Pats for All Parade is the place to be. “It includes everyone…and welcomes and embraces everyone.”
State Sen. Mike Gianaris, however, complimented the parade organizers on the big turnout. “One of the great joys of representing Sunnyside/Woodside is watching this grow each year. And I don’t think I have seen a crowd this big before,” Gianaris said.
Meanwhile, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who protested at the Fifth Avenue parade many years ago, focused largely on the neighborhood, urging parade goers to even shop at local stores. “Support this community that supports equality for all,” he said.
The message of gay rights and equality, however, still remained a central theme of the event.
This year’s grand marshals—Tom Duane and Terry McGovern–spoke at great length about gay rights and their concerns about oppressive laws that have been introduced or passed in Africa and India.
Among this year’s participants were The Keltic Dream Irish Dancers, a group of 35 children from the Bronx, who performed classic jigs as the speeches were going on.
The pipe bands and traditional Irish musicians added to the Irish authenticity of the event; so too, did an Irish language school and the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dancers. Even the local Sunnyside dog group, SUDSMUTS, marched, with their dogs dressed in an assortment of green regalia such as a scarf with “Kiss me I’m Irish.”
At the same time, there were also a variety of children’s groups marching under a multitude of banners; the Shannon Gaels, Swim Strong, Sunnyside/Woodside Boys and Girls Club, Girl Scouts of Sunnyside Woodside and various schools.
A plethora of gay groups were also out in force. Among them was Stonewall Democrats of NYC, Queens Lesbian & Gay Pride Committee and DignityNY.