Feb. 12, 2014 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 members of the LGBT community, established the St. Pat’s Day for All parade in 2000–in Sunnyside.
However, since its founding, the parade has morphed into much more than an Irish and gay festival. Hispanic and black groups now march; children’s groups march; seniors march; and so, too, does the local canine club.
The 15th St. Pat’s Day for All parade is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 2, at 1:00 pm. More than 1,500 participants are expected to make the walk, which will begin at the corner of 47thStreet and Skillman Ave – and end at 58th Street and Woodside Ave. If the weather is good, Fay said the number of participants could reach 2,000.
“Sunnyside and Woodside should be very proud of the parade, since many people from around the world have got to know the neighborhoods because of it,” Fay said. “The parade still remains the city’s only all inclusive St Patrick’s Day celebration.”
The parade has grown since its inception and has become a big family affair. “Hundreds of children march every year,” said Kathleeen Walsh D’Arcy, who is the co-chair of the parade. This year, she said, more than 150 children who play Gaelic football for Shannon Gaels are expected to participate while many children from scout and youth groups throughout Queens will be marching too, she said.
The parade still maintains its strong Irish roots. This year there will be four pipe bands, dancers from the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance, and several traditional Irish musicians from the tri-state area.
The FDNY pipers, which came for the first time last year, will be bringing a larger contingent this year as well as a vintage engine.
There will be giant puppets—with the help of the Puppeteers’ Cooperative in Brooklyn—and the popular stilt walkers who represent Swim Strong, which is a non-profit group that provides swimming lessons at affordable rates.
Fay expects as many as 100 organizations to march—ranging from groups consisting of 2 people to 150 people.
- The Keltic Dream Irish Dancers, a group of about 35 African-American children (aged 7-12 year) from PS 59 in the Bronx, who have learned Irish dance
- Shannon Gaels
- Girl Scouts of Sunnyside and Woodside
- American Red Cross Youth
- School marching bands
- Sunnyside United Dog Society, whose members walk their dogs in the parade
- Senior citizens, representing Sunnyside Community Services
- Dignity NY
- Queens lesbian and gay pride committee
Local city and state officials have all confirmed that they will be attending, Fay said. So, too, has the public advocate and city comptroller. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is not going to participate in theFifth Avenue parade due to its exclusion of gay groups, is expected to participate but has not yet confirmed.
Fay said former State Sen. Tom Duane and Terry McGovern have been named this year’s grand marshals.
Duanne, a resident of Chelsea, was selected due to his strong commitment to human rights, Fay said.
Duane, who served in the state senate from 1999 to 2012, first introduced New York’s Marriage Equality Act in 2001 and championed other pieces of legislation protecting the LGBT community.
Meanwhile, McGovern founded the HIV Law Project in 1989, where she served as its executive director until 1999, and is now a professor of public health at Columbia University.
Fay said that parade organizers have a limited budget and expect the event to cost about $12,000. He said the pipe bands cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 each and then there is the cost of a sound system, renting a truck and distributing posters.
Fay said that Councilmen Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer provide some city funding. He said that the group also holds two private fundraisers per year and sells ads in its journal.
Other sources of funding include donations from local businesses.
Not too late to participate
Fay said that there is still plenty of time for groups that are interested in participating in the parade to sign up. He said he wants as many groups as possible to participate– of all backgrounds. “We err on the side of inclusion.”