February 17, By Hannah Wulkan
The St. Pat’s For All parade will be kicking off in Sunnyside for the 18th year in a row early next month.
The parade, founded by members of the Irish LGBT community after not being permitted to walk in the Fifth Avenue parade under a gay banner, will march through Sunnyside on March 5, beginning at 1 p.m. at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue.
The parade will move up Skillman Avenue and finish at 58th Street and Woodside Avenue.
The parade is shaping up to be the biggest ever, said co-chair Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, who said that new groups have been signing up for the first time, including many immigration organizations and cultural groups.
She said that depending on the weather, the parade normally has about 100 groups walk each year, but she expects to see many more this year, though she did not know how many yet.
D’Arcy guessed that the increase in registrations was due to the current political climate, and people gravitating towards inclusive organizations.
“Our parade has always been an inclusive parade that welcomes all immigrant groups and organizations,” D’Arcy said. “We welcome everyone to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and our shared history of immigration. We remember that the Irish were in the same position coming in to this country and city in the past, and many still are.”
For the first time last year, the Irish LGBT community marched under their own banner in the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade in addition to hosting their own. They will be marching in the Fifth Avenue parade again this year.
Since the St Pat’s For All parade began, it has grown from primarily a gay pride parade to a huge community celebration of diversity and human rights.
“It’s focus on equality is what makes it different, and it’s a celebration of the Irish historically being progressive people and fighting for the rights of their own people and all others, and being proud immigrants who have helped this country and city grow,” D’Arcy said.
Two grand marshals who embody the theme of human rights will lead the parade this year, television icon Phil Donahue and disabilities activist Anastasia Somoza.
Donahue is best known for his journalism and his television show that ran for 29 years, on which he interviewed world leaders and celebrities, including many U.S. presidents, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, and more.
Following his show ending in 1996, he continued on to several other journalistic and humanitarian endeavors.
“He is a renowned human rights activist besides being a TV personality, and always stood out as journalist who was willing to make opinions known politically and was fearless in this way,” said D’Arcy.
Somoza had attended the parade for years, D’Arcy said, and stepped in to the spotlight this year by giving a keynote speech on the first day of the Democratic National Convention about Americans with disabilities.
“She’s always been a great supporter and her whole family comes every year, and now she has become a nationally known spokesperson for disability rights,” D’Arcy said. “We said here is this friend of ours doing amazing things, let’s invite her.”
Many local Sunnyside bars will keep the Irish spirit going by offering live music and drink specials following the parade, beginning at 3 p.m. and running late in to the evening.
Groups interested in participating in the parade can still register to walk at http://www.stpatsforall.org/.