What would an imaginative St. Patrick’s Day parade up New York’s Fifth Avenue look like?
Given that in recent years the TV audience has dropped dramatically and interest in the parade has focused mostly on the LGBT issue, how could the parade be rescued?
It has become a joyless parade, full of grim and set faces marching stolidly up Fifth. Enough of this purgatory!
Let’s have carnival, which is what St. Patrick’s Day is equally about — the arrival of spring.
I remember going to the Puerto Rican Day parade a few years back where an Elvis impersonator was grand marshal. I never saw a crowd have such fun.
We Irish are known for our humor. God knows we deserve to be, but nothing in the New York parade cracks a smile.
Let’s start with the grand marshal. We need big names, and there is no shortage of them.
Liam Neeson seems like a natural, a Ballymena, Co. Antrim native and New York resident made good in the tough world of Hollywood. He’s also doing a great job sticking up for the horse and carriage industry in Central Park. Neeson would spark a hundred stories, dozens of interviews, great excitement.
There are others. How about Bill O’Reilly if you want controversy? He’s a good Catholic boy from Long Island and very proud of his Irish roots.
How about someone to wake up the echoes? Michael Flatley perhaps. He created the revolution in Irish dancing which has swept the world.
Then let’s deal with the rest of the parade.
Serried files of marching bands and soldiers are fine, but let’s give the event more of an Irish Mardi Gras feel.
Floats celebrating different aspects of Irish culture would be most welcome. This year we could have had one re-enacting the Battle of Clontarf when King Brian defeated the Vikings, with lots of special effects and lads and lasses all dressed up.
We could also have had one in 2013 celebrating The Gathering tourism initiative, calling on all of those who wanted to go back home to grab the chance.
How about for 2015 U2 celebrating the new look and feel and openness of the parade on a float playing their best hits on the way up Fifth Avenue? What a reaction that would bring!
Okay, I know I’m hyperventilating here and have parked on the edge of reality, but let’s pretend is always fun.
Lets make St. Patrick’s a week about the best of Ireland all around New York and other cities — plays, concerts, seminars, discussion, poetry readings, business meet-ups.
Commandeer Wall Street, Broadway, the New York Public library, throw open the doors of the Met for the best Irish cultural exhibits.
Import Irish bands, poets, artists, authors, and chefs, showcase the best of Ireland and Irish America everywhere.
Let the parade be the zenith, the high point, but let it be part of something bigger with the Irish ability to improvise and improve.
Okay, I’ll wake up from this dream in a few moments, but consider this — 44 million watch the annual Thanksgiving Day parade, while 250,000 odd watch the New York St. Patrick’s Parade.
Statistics don’t lie. We need to change and change utterly.
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”