March 6, 2017 By Christian Murray
A large crowd overcame frigid conditions Sunday to line Skillman Avenue to watch a multitude of Irish, gay and neighborhood groups march from Sunnyside into Woodside in the St Pat’s for All Parade.
This was the 18th annual St. Pat’s for All parade and many of the traditional groups that have become a centerpiece of the event were out in force once again.
There was the FDNY bagpipe band, the County Cork Pipe Band and the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance; LGBT groups included the Heritage of Pride and the Queens Lesbian & Gay Pride Committee; and local organizations such as the Shannon Gaels Gaelic Athletic Association, Sunnyside/Woodside Girl Scouts and the Sunnyside United Dog Society turned out yet again.
The tone of the parade was different this year, with less of a focus on LGBT issues and more on the plight of immigrants and refugees. The march was particularly significant in light of President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and the clampdown by the US Department of Homeland Security.
“This parade celebrates inclusion and diversity,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who called on everyone to unite against Trump’s policies of division. “This parade represents a resistance of what is happening now and is a great symbol.”
Brendan Fay, the co-founder of the parade, spoke out in solidarity with Muslims, refugees and immigrants. He said that the Irish were once refugees fleeing famine and poverty and faced similar prejudice. He said that it is this experience that has shaped the views of many Irish Americans.
As in years past, the parade drew City officials, including Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer, Costa Constantinides and Danny Dromm, as well as State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan.
Notably absent this year was Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The parade featured more than 100 groups, with organizations representing many parts of the world, including Mexico, Peru, Korea and south Asia.
The St. Pat’s for All, one of Sunnyside and Woodside’s most popular events, began as a predominantly gay-pride parade, organized by a number of Irish men and women who were not allowed to march in the traditional St Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue under a gay banner.
In 2016 the Irish LGBT community were finally permitted to march in the Fifth Avenue event under the banner of Lavender and Green, an organization founded by Fay.
Fay and co-chair Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy vowed to keep the Sunnyside/Woodside event going.