Feb. 26, 2019 By Christian Murray
The 20th Annual Sunnyside/Woodside ‘St. Pat’s For All’ parade will take place on Sunday, with more than 100 groups already signed up to march.
The parade is Sunnyside’s largest event each year, drawing Irish cultural groups, LGBT organizations, children’s groups and several marching bands.
The event is also a big day for local families. Many young families-often decked out in green–cheer on the marchers as they walk along the parade route.
The parade will begin at Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street and finish 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 event has evolved over the past 20 years. In its early days, it was largely a LGBT event, organized by a number of Irish men and women who were not permitted to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Ave under a gay banner. Today, a large cross section of the neighborhood participates.
Brendan Fay, a founder and co-chair of the Sunnyside parade, noted that the event has played a big role in the movement toward LGBT and immigrant equality.
The Sunnyside/Woodside St. Pat’s event, he said, was the first parade in New York to allow LGBT groups to march behind their organization’s own banner.
“We were excluded and arrested at St. Patrick’s Day events in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Fifth Avenue,” Fay said. “But the people of Sunnyside and Woodside welcomed it.”
“When we did the first one, everyone said that the event wouldn’t last,” Fay said. “But businesses and residents helped keep it going. My heart is full of gratitude to the people of Queens.”
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.
While the Irish LGBT community has largely been embraced at parades across the city, the St. Pat’s For All Parade continues.
“This parade is special,” Fay said. “Sunnyside and Woodside have embraced the parade as their own– and different groups continue to want to participate.”
This year’s parade will feature many of the same groups that have been coming for years—such as the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance, Queens Pride, Girl Scouts of Sunnyside Woodside, and the Shannon Gaels Gaelic Football Club. This year, several marching bands have signed up as well as several Irish musicians.
Fay said local businesses—such as neighborhood bars and restaurants–continue to get behind the event.
For instance, eight Sunnyside bars and restaurants known as Sunnyside’s Boulevard Bars are hosting a joint Irish music festival, where Irish bands will play at the respective pubs, after the parade.
For Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, a founder and co-chair of the event, the parade is also about embracing immigrant groups and other cultures.
There will be groups representing Mexico, Korea and several other nations marching on Sunday.
Over the years, the parade has included Turkish, Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian and Romanian groups—as well as Islamic centers.
“St. Pat’s For All welcomes Irish immigrants and all the immigrant communities in Queens to celebrate our shared history of immigration,” Darcy said.
This year’s grand marshals are Fionnula Flanagan, a Dublin-born film and stage actress, and Sean Curran, a dancer, actor and choreographer.
Fay said that the St. Pat’s For All parade has become a model for parades around the country—where ethnic groups are celebrated and LGBT groups are included.
Date: Sunday, March 3
Starts: Corner of 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue
Pre-event festivities and speeches: 12 p.m.
Parade Starts: 1 p.m.