Feb. 25, 2010 By Christian Murray
In the 1990s, Brendan Fay attempted to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade along Fifth Ave. under a gay and lesbian group banner. Fay, who is gay, was greeted to a very cool reception. The police pounced, the handcuffs were slapped on and he got the message: not wanted.
So Fay, along with a number of other gays, established the St. Patrick’s Day for All parade in 2000, which goes from Sunnyside to Woodside. However, in the following decade since, the parade has morphed into much more than its original Irish and gay founding. Hispanic groups march; seniors march; and so, too, does the local canine club.
The eleventh St. Pat’s parade will be held on Sunday, March 7, at 1:00 pm. More than 1,200 participants are expected to make the walk, which begins at the corner of 43rdStreet and Skillman Ave – and ends at 61stand Woodside Ave.
“Sunnyside should be very proud of the parade, since the whole world learns about the neighborhood,” Fay said. For instance, Irish National Radio will be reporting on the event.
Fay has managed to stretch the group’s $5,000 bank balance and turn it into a big attraction year after year.
This year, many of the traditional Irish groups will be present, marching under a wide array of banners. There will be four pipe bands, dancers from the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance, and traditional Irish musicians from the tri-state area.
Additionally, Brian Fleming, the acclaimed Bodhran player (an Irish drum), will play with De Jimbe– a 7-piece band that blends traditional Irish music with African sounds.
But what makes the parade different is that Fay has reached out to many different groups over the years. Therefore, a variety of different groups are expected to march. They include:
- The Keltic Dream Irish Dancers, a group of about 35 children (aged 7-12 year) from PS 59 in the Bronx, who are black, Latino and Indian who have learned Irish dance
- A Haitian group from the International Career Institute
- A group of 40 Tibetan students from the YCC & Himalayan SouthEast Asian Club
- Dance groups representing Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Mexico
- School marching bands
- Sunnyside United Dog Society, whose members walk their dogs in the parade
- A senior citizen walking group, representing the Sunnyside Community Services
- Dignity USA, representing gay lesbian, bisexual & transgender Catholics
- A variety of other gay groups
- Boys & Girls clubs
Furthermore, giant puppets have become part of the festivities.
Fay said that many of the different cultures have some sort of affiliation with the Irish community. The first president of Chile was Bernardo O’Higgins, of Irish origin. The Mexicans honour the Irishmen who helped defend them in war.
Two grand marshals have been named this year: Danny Dromm and Mary Lanning.
Dromm, who was an openly gay fourth grade teacher at PS 199, helped co-found the parade and has been involved in it ever since, Fay said. In the past he marched with his students from PS 199.
Dromm was elected as the New York City council member to district 25 (Jackson Heights) in November and assumed office Jan. 1.
Meanwhile, Lanning, an insurance executive, is the chairman of the NYC Clothing bank and is a founding member of YES!Solutions Inc., a grass roots organization that brings relief to the homeless, impoverished and ill.
Additional funding still needed
However, the group is still in need of funds. It is trying to raise funds at a pre-parade concert, which will feature Malachy McCourt, musicians, story tellers and comedians. The suggested donation for attendees is $50.
The event will be held at the Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51st, NY, NY on Tuesday, March 2, at 6:00 pm– and those wanting to attend should call Fay for tickets at 718-721-2780–or go to the group’s website at http://www.stpatsforall.com/
Other sources of funding include donations from bars and restaurants. Saints & Sinners, Sidetracks, Dazies and Bar43 are some of the contributors to this year’s parade.
Not too late to participate
Fay said that other groups that are interested in participating still have time to sign up. He said the group tends to be open to other organizations. “We err on the side of inclusion.”
Note: Residents will not be allowed to park along the parade route after midnight Saturday, March 6, through to 4 pm the day of the parade.