Feb. 25, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
The 21st annual Sunnyside/Woodside St. Pats For All parade will take place on Sunday and organizers say they will have more participants than ever.
More than 120 groups have registered to march for what is Sunnyside and Woodside’s largest annual event.
Several Irish cultural groups, LGBT organizations, music groups and a multitude of marching bands will make up the approximately 2,000 marchers who are expected take to Skillman Avenue and be cheered on by local parents and children decked out in emerald green.
The parade will follow last year’s route beginning at Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street and finishing at 58th Street and Woodside Avenue.
Music and speeches will begin at 12 p.m., with the parade kicking off at 1 p.m.
The parade was initially organized as an LGBT inspired event after a group of Irish men and women were not permitted to march in the 1999 St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Ave under a gay banner.
The Sunnyside event has since evolved to be considered more of a community driven celebration with a large cross section of the neighborhood participating.
Brendan Fay – a community activist who founded the event after he was arrested several times trying to march with a gay rights group at the Fifth Avenue parade in the 1990s – said more local groups continue to get involved and the parade is attracting participants from all across the five boroughs.
“St Pats for All has emerged as a community celebration that has evolved with a reputation of genuine, warm hospitality and that’s what we’ve always wanted from the very beginning and we’re very proud of its significance and its message,” he said.
In 2016, the first LGBT group – the Irish LGBT Lavender and Green Alliance – was permitted to march under a gay banner at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue. However, while New York has witnessed major progress on the issue, LGBT organizations will again be excluded from the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Staten Island this Sunday.
“This experience of exclusion neither reflects Ireland nor the best of who we are as New Yorkers,” Fay said.
“Staten Island LGBT groups will join us for the St. Pats For All parade and will be welcomed, cheered and embraced by the communities of Sunnyside and Woodside, as they have been for the last couple of years,” he said.
The parade is also about multiculturalism and a reminder of the cultural gifts immigrants bring to America, Fay said
For Jaime-Faye Bean, a parade organizer, the event encapsulates the spirit of inclusivity.
“Sunnyside and Woodside are incredibly diverse neighborhoods where people turn what could be potential divides – religion, culture, nationality – into bridges to friendship and understanding,” she said.
Various faith-based groups as well as Korean, Mexican, Colombian and other ethnic organizations will march and showcase their traditions–but will at the same time embrace their Irish connections.
For example, Batallón de San Patricio (The Saint Patrick’s Battalion),–who were Irish fighters that fought with the Mexican Army in the Mexican–American War of 1846–will be honored by a Mexican group.
Meanwhile, Queens native Sister Maura Clarke, an American Catholic Maryknoll sister who was murdered in 1980 while being a missionary in El Salvador, will be remembered by an El-Salvador group.
This year’s grand marshals are Mick Moloney, an Irish-born award-winning folk musician, and Johanna Flores, a coordinator with Hour Children, a Long Island City-based organization that helps incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated women—along with their children– successfully rejoin the community.
The parade will be led by the FDNY bagpipe band and will feature several other marching bands as well as regulars such as the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance, Queens Pride, Girl Scouts of Sunnyside Woodside, Sunnyside United Dog Society and the Shannon Gaels Gaelic Football Club.
Musicians from across New York and from Ireland will play throughout the day and after the event the eighth annual Irish Music Festival kicks off which takes place at various bars and restaurants in the neighborhood.
The Woodside Sunnyside Runners will run the parade route at 11:45 a.m.
However, the weekend’s festivities will kick off on Friday at the Irish Arts Center, with performances from Mick Moloney, Brian Fleming and other musicians, poets and dancers.
For more information, please click here.