George McKeown to Lead Queens Parade

Award winning film director Terry George and celebrated Irish singer Susan McKeown have been selected as the grand marshals for this year's inclusive Sunnyside Woodside St. Patrick's Day Parade in Queens on March 1 at 1:30 p.m. George, director of the acclaimed films "Some Mother's Son" and "Hotel Rwanda" among others, told the Irish Voice, "This parade includes anyone who wants to participate and I fully support it. I'm a fan of equal rights and I'm also a fan of Susan McKeown's, so I'm looking forward to seeing her there too." Unlike the main parade on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the Queens parade allows gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Irish groups full participation under their own banners alongside pipers, puppets, politicians, folk bands, sports and religious groups. Political leaders scheduled to march on the day include New York City Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Congressman Joseph Crowley. Now in its 10th year as New York City's only inclusive St. Patrick's parade, the Queens parade begins at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside and ends at 61st Street in Woodside. "We err on the side of hospitality," parade co-chair Brendan Fay told the Irish Voice. "It's in the best spirit of Ireland and it also reflects the daily reality of the most ethnically diverse borough of New York." The grassroots, low budget parade begins with a special concert at the Irish Arts Center on Friday, February 27. Among the writers, actors, and musicians performing are Malachy McCourt, Peter Quinn, McKeown, Fiona Walsh, Kenny Lockwood, the Niall O'Leary School of Dance and the Keltic Dream Dancers, led by Caroline Duggan. "It's such a wonderful event and it's hard to believe its already in its 10th year. It's amazing what they achieved in the last decade," singer McKeown told the Irish Voice. "It's a parade that for me is representative of the real New York community. It's not just an Irish festival but also one that celebrates what the Irish have done in New York. They've gone to great lengths to make it a welcoming festival and all sorts of people take part. I'm very proud to have been invited to participate." Irish groups joining the line of march include the O'Donovan Rossa Society, the Brehon Law Society, the Patrick Finucane memorial group, the Irish language group An Slua Nua, and several Irish dance schools. Ian Mc Gowan of the Astoria Historical Society will lead a group honoring Irish American sports heroes of the 1908 Olympics. Also marching are boys and girls clubs, members of the FDNY Office of Recruitment and marching groups from Catholic and Protestant parish communities. "With our banners we'll honor Irish saints like St. Brigid and St. Patrick and we'll also honor personal heroes. Human rights lawyers Paul O'Dwyer, Frank Durkan and the 9/11 chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, were all were supporters of the parade," said Fay. NAACP members celebrating its centenary will carry the banner of Frederick Douglass, recalling his visit to Ireland during the Famine. The Mexican community will honor the San Patricios, the Irish immigrants who defended the Mexico in the U.S. Mexican War of 1846-1848. Peruvians participating will honor the life of Irish patriot Roger Casement for his humanitarian work in Africa and South America. Parade sponsors include the WaMu Bank, Technical Career Institute, Skyline Hotel, United Federation of Teachers, Local 375/DC 37, Irish Arts Center, and Catholic gay group Dignity. For more information and to register to march in the parade visit www.stpatsforall.com.

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