The Streets Were Paved With Green

The streets of Sunnyside were green with pride on March 7, as the fifth annual "St. Pats For All" inclusive parade made its way down Skillman Avenue to 61st Street. There were no protesters this year as members of the gay community joined Irish dancers, puppeteers, stilt walkers, community groups reflective of the ethnic mix of Queens and thousands of spectators, the largest crowd to date.
"This is an all-inclusive parade that brings the community together and reflects the ethnic and spiritual diversity of the borough," said Brendan Fay, co-chair. "Im very proud that the parade is in Queens because its one of the most diverse geographic sites in the US. Immigrants, myself included, arrive in Queens with their hopes and dreams."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has marched in the parade since his election, and New Paltz Mayor Jason West (who has performed marriage ceremonies for the gay community) both marched in the parade, along with many local politicians honoree Frank Durkan, an Irish civil rights activist, and Siobhan Kyne, a leader of the Irish community in Queens.
The seed that grew into the idea for the parade was planted five years ago in an Irish pub in Woodside when Fay and Eileen Duncan came up with the idea of a celebration that welcomes everyone. That was in response to Manhattans St. Patricks Day Parade on Fifth Avenue which excludes gay groups from marching under their banners. The all-inclusive parade, co-chaired by Fay and Barbara Heffernan Mohr, is the only parade to welcome lesbians and gays.
Everyone got the chance to be a little Irish this year as ethnic groups like Peruvians, Koreans, Mexicans, Ecuadorians and Native Americans marched with international musicians like DeJimbe, a band from Dublin that blends Irish music with African drumming, the Niall OLeary School of Irish Dance and the Lavender and Green Alliance, a New York Irish lesbian and gay group.
Womens leadership was celebrated and Northern Ireland Assemblywoman, Patricia Lewsley, the newly-elected chair of the Social Democratic Labor Party, and Bronagh Hinds, Northern Ireland Womens Initiatives Northern Ireland director and 1999 European Woman of the Year, attended to highlight Irish womens leadership in the peace process in Northern Ireland.
This years parade was the first to have corporate sponsorship, a fact reflective of how quickly the all-inclusive parade has grown. Local 1199 (Health and Hospital Workers Union) and Boru Vodka, a Queens-based Irish distributor, both helped make the day a success. The post-party was held at the Tower View on Roosevelt Avenue, where Salvivo, a local band from Sunnyside, gave everyone a reason to dance.
"This parade is becoming yet another tradition in celebrating St. Patricks Day in New York City," said Fay. "It is a moment to be filled with the spirit of the city and the borough, the spirit of inclusion, hospitality and diversity. It sends the message that inclusion is good and allows us to learn to walk together."
On March 6, the Rockaways hosted its own all-inclusive St. Patricks Day parade, which has traditionally been one of the largest in New York City. Two of the areas favorite politicians, Councilman Joe Addabbo and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, were on hand to greet the thousands of spectators. Dr. Geraldine Chappey, a democratic district leader, was also out showing off her Irish pride.

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