It's been two long years since the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade took over Fifth Avenue, so Thursday’s return to normality will be welcome and the weather looks like it’s going to cooperate too, with clear skies and temperatures in the 50s.
“There’s a festive feeling out there. Everybody is ready to march and it’s going to be great to be back on Fifth,” Sean Lane, chairman of the parade’s board of directors, told the Irish Voice, sister publication to IrishCentral.
The 261st annual march – unbroken by Covid as parade organizers were able to pull off two smaller marches in 2020 and 2021 up Madison Avenue to keep the continuity going – will be notable for a number of reasons.
To show solidarity with Ukraine, the parade invited a number of Ukrainian health care professionals to march behind the Northwell Health banner. They’ll be carrying the flag of their home country and led by Dr. Evelina Grayver, born in Ukraine and raised in America. Dr. Grayver is a cardiologist and worked on the front lines for Northwell during the worst of the pandemic. (Irish man Michael Dowling, the CEO of Northwell Health, was the Parade's Grand Marshal in 2017.)
“We expect that the crowds on Fifth Avenue will be very happy to see Ukraine represented in our parade, and we’re happy to be able to support them,” Lane said.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s mother Shirley Dolan, 93, passed on March 12 in Missouri, and he will miss the parade as he departed for St. Louis on Sunday to be with his family “and prepare for the funeral in the parish where she and dad were raised and married,” Dolan wrote on his Twitter account. Bishop Brennan will observe the parade from outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in his place.
“We will miss Cardinal Dolan and we are sorry about the passing of his mother who he always spoke about so lovingly,” Lane said.
The parade will mark the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks at noon in front of the cathedral led by Joe LaPointe, the commanding officer of the FDNY’s Ceremonial Unit. Bells will chime after a moment of silence, and the parade will come to a temporary stop while “Amazing Grace” is played on bagpipes as marchers turn to look southward on Fifth. Taps will be played, and prayers said for those who died on 9-11 and the first responders who became sick after working on recovery efforts.
There will be over 200 marching groups taking part in this year’s parade, though the number of marching band units is down because school groups didn’t have time to fundraise or practice together during the past two years. Participants from Ireland are also not as plentiful as prior years because of uncertainty over travel.
“It takes months for marching units who want to be in the parade to make their travel plans and do whatever fundraising might be necessary. So obviously Covid impacted that, especially when the Omicron variant was detected,” Lane said.
The parade grand marshal will be James Callahan, general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers. Callahan has held the grand marshal title since 2020 and the start of the pandemic; now he finally gets his chance to march up Fifth Avenue.
WNBC Channel 4 in New York will air four hours of live parade coverage starting at 11 am. The parade’s social media channels will also cover the march throughout the day. The parade starts at Fifth Avenue and 44th Street and ends on 79th Street.
*This column first appeared in the March 16 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.
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