The sun was shining, the pipes were on full blast, the marchers proudly marched, and hundreds of thousands of spectators lined Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th – last Friday felt like a full-on return to normal for the 262nd annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade after a tough few years dealing with pandemic restrictions and fears.
Grand marshal Kevin J. Conway led the way up Fifth with some 200,000 marchers behind him from all over the US and Ireland, which was well represented by Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin and, as always, dozens of members of the garda police force.
Local politicians also took their place on Fifth Avenue, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who hosted an early morning Irish breakfast at Gracie Mansion before attending Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General of New York Letitia James, and several members of the New York City Council.
Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day! Wonderful to be joined by so many in New York City to celebrate Irish heritage today. Sláinte! 🍀 pic.twitter.com/fo6yU6K8cD— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) March 17, 2023
Adams, who made an appearance at a number of Irish events to mark the 17th, including the parade foundation’s dinner on March 15 and Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s lunch on St. Patrick’s Day afternoon, marched this year right next to FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, his 2022 appointee who has been under fire these past few months for clashing with the department’s top brass over personnel decisions.
“Laura said, ‘Listen, why (are) you always doing the NYPD?’” the mayor told reporters before the march. “So, I got on my FDNY jacket, you know, (I’m) marching with the fire department. Listen, everyone knows how I feel about the commissioner, she is really going to move us forward.”
Dolan, who said the 9 am morning Mass, held court outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral to greet the marchers. The usual scrum next to his location swelled when politicians stopped by, but the cardinal made time to greet all of the groups that stepped off for the first third of the parade, posing for selfies and holding a few babies too.
A group of young ladies stationed around 48th Street decked out in green headgear sang, “Ooh, ahh, up the RA, I said ooh, ahh up the RA,” the famous – or infamous – chorus from the Wolfe Tones’ Irish rebel song “Celtic Symphony.”
“Not sure exactly what that means but we like the sound of it,” one of the American singers told the Irish Voice, sister publication to IrishCentral.
Staged at the door of Trump Tower between 56th and 57th were a few dozen MAGA supporters waving banners in support of the former president, Donald Trump – and the future one, they say.
“You know it’s true – he won in 2020!” the MAGAs shouted at the marchers.
“The police and firemen love us, the parade loves us,” Edward X. Young, a Trump campaign volunteer in 2016, told the Irish Voice. “Many people here are nice to us, others are flipping us the bird. Some of the mayor’s cluster gave us nasty looks but to his credit he kept smiling away.”
Young said he’s “100 percent” certain the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. How does he know? A woman adorned in Trump buttons standing right behind him quickly replied, “My dead mother voted. Is that good enough for you?”
And so it went, another successful green day in New York City with the feel of spring in the air.
“The parade couldn’t have gone better. Everyone had the best time,” Sean Lane, chairman of the parade, told the Irish Voice. “A great day for the Irish in New York.”
*This column first appeared in the March 18 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.