Sept. 30, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Sunnyside’s annual St. Pat’s For All Parade will march in a new era, following a historic decision from its counterpart on Fifth Avenue.
On Monday, the board of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade voted to invite an Irish LGBT group – the Lavender & Green Alliance – to its celebrations, after more than two decades of exclusion.
This is the second LGBT group permitted to march with banners on Fifth Avenue, and the first specifically Irish group. For many advocates, last year’s invitation to Out@NBC – an LGBT group within the TV network – did not represent a significant enough gesture for inclusion to end years of boycotts.
“Perhaps I never expected it to take so long. A quarter of a century is a long time,” Brendan Fay, founder and chair of the Lavender & Green Alliance, said. “But my motto always has been, ‘it’s always a no until it’s a yes.’”
“It was a very profound moment, after being excluded for 25 years,” he added.
Fay is also co-chair of the St. Pat’s For All Parade, which takes place on Skillman Avenue each year and focuses on diversity and inclusivity. St. Pat’s For All was first held in 2000 as a response to LGBT exclusion from the mainstream parade.
He said that although its founding mission has been accomplished, the parade will continue, remaining committed to inclusion and growth.
“The origins of St. Pat’s For All were in the exclusion of the LGBT community,” Fay said. “Of course, it has evolved and grown, as more ethnic groups have participated, and this year I hope we’re going to see even more groups participating.”
“We will be back on Skillman Avenue next March, for what is now really the most diverse and inclusive St. Pat’s in the city,” he added.
Fay was also quick to note what he called the “significant impact” of St. Pat’s For All and its local supporters on the shift towards LGBT inclusion.
“The people of Sunnyside and Woodside [have] shown what a hospitable and inclusive cultural celebration looks like, and I believe now that spirit has impacted and helped transform the big parade on Fifth Avenue,” he said.
St. Pat’s For All 2016 will take place on the first Sunday in March, as is tradition, Fay said.
“Since 2016 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising, the birth of Irish independence, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 17 is a special opportunity for renewed commitment to Irish values and traditions, and the Irish role in the 21st Century,” John Lahey, chairman of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Board said in a statement.
“We are working with the Irish government in this anniversary year to teach our young people the lessons of sacrifice and heroism, of love and tolerance, embodied in the Irish spirit.”
The Manhattan parade will take place on March 17.
Reach reporter Jackie Strawbridge at [email protected]