The 59th Yonkers Saint Patrick’s Day Parade on McLean Avenue, which combines the city’s long-standing event with a well-supported community upstart, takes place on Saturday, March 22, at 1 p.m.
The parade, which named Reverend Thomas Collins of Stepinac High School as its grand marshal, seeks to borrow from the experience of a committee that has organized an event for 58 years, while utilizing the other’s proximity to a large Irish community and generous benefaction from local businesses – many of whom comprise the McLean Avenue Merchants Association (M.A.M.A.).
Larry McCrudden, co-chairperson of the parade, believes that this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be “bigger and better.”
“I get excited every year,” he says. “The Yonkers parade is older than most. And for 58 years, our parade has marched down South Broadway, honoring the patron saint of Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York in a thoughtful, dignified manner.”
McCrudden – who has served as the committee chairperson since 1992 – assisted in negotiations with the McLean Avenue St. Patrick’s Day committee, agreeing to a subsequent merger under three conditions: the parade must maintain the official “Yonkers” designation; all honorees must bear Irish descent; and honorees must originate from the city’s various neighborhoods.
Fellow co-chairperson Deirdre O’Mara, an Irish dance instructor, knows that “the two-year-old St. Patrick’s Day Parade has already surpassed all expectations, and now with the merger and the combined support and content, people are in for a great day on the Emerald Mile.”
“There is no other Irish community like our neighborhood, the support, the feeling of being part of something, the pride in being Irish to name a few. McLean Ave. was a parade waiting to happen.”
However, both chairpersons admit that the merger has created a few obstacles.
The Yonkers parade routinely maintained a businesslike approach to the event, mindful of its significance to Roman Catholicism and Irish culture. The McLean Avenue parade, on the other hand, relied upon its Irish pubs and restaurants as a means of attracting a large and festive audience – approximately 20,000 visitors, by some estimates.
McCrudden feels that there may have been “a few bumps in the road as far as philosophies, but [he] didn’t want to lose the 58 years of hard work that so many people put in.”
O’Mara adds that “it will continue to be a work in progress as anything worthwhile is.”
For several months, Mayor Mike Spano sought to broker a deal between the events in order to safely allocate police and emergency services, and unite the city’s two parades.
In an article for the Yonkers Rising, Spano said, “I am proud our Irish communities worked together this year to organize a St. Patrick’s Day Parade that is inclusive, making it bigger and better than ever. We encourage everyone to join the celebration March 22 so we can paint the city green with Irish pride.”
The board includes members from each parade, including: McCrudden; O’Mara; James Landy, a long-time member of the Yonkers St. Patrick’s Day committee; R.J. Puma, chairman of M.A.M.A; Ursula McIntyre and Mike Quaid.
Judge Arthur Doran, Jr., who has marched as the grand marshal for each parade, serves as board chairperson.
Aides to the current grand marshal include: Seamus Clarke, of M.A.M.A.; Agnes Delaney, of the Aisling Irish Community Center; Scott Griffith, of the Yonkers Police Department; Kevin Hartnett, of the Yonkers Ancient Order of Hibernians (A.O.H.), Division One; Thomas Hewitt, of the Yonkers Fire Department; Deputy County Executive William Mooney, of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Westchester; Allison Mosher Burke, of the Yonkers Ladies A.O.H. and American Irish Association of Westchester; and Nuala Purcell, of the Irish Voice and County Tipperary N & B Association.