Shamrocks and green streamers blew in the wind alongside rainbow flags, as Queens celebrated its 11th annual St. Pat’s For All Parade & Fair in Sunnyside and Woodside.
Gays, lesbians, Latinos, Tibetans, Native Americans, Haitians, and many more diverse organizations came out on Sunday March 7 and joined Queens’ Irish community to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in an all-inclusive parade. Created in 2000 as an alternative to the Fifth Avenue ceremonies, which do not allow gays to participate, this parade welcomes all with the theme of “cherishing all children of the nation equally.”
“Our St Pat’s For All 2010 is a generous coming together of businesses, communities and musicians who for a few hours turn the streets of Sunnyside and Woodside into an ‘Ireland of the welcomes,’” said Brendan Fay, co-founder and co-chair of the parade. “Hospitality is at the heart of this inclusive St. Patrick’s celebration, which welcomes the diverse immigrant communities of Queens, as well as gay contingents.”
The ceremonies opened with Native American and Catholic prayers. The grand marshal, Councilmember Daniel Dromm, was joined by political and community leaders draped in Irish flags and beads, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Comptroller John Liu.
From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., participants marched from 43rd Street along Skillman Avenue to 61st Street and Woodside Avenue, carrying banners, playing bagpipes, beating conga drums and dancing in cultural costumes. The number of participants doubled from last year, according to Fay. Among the organizations were Dignity USA, a group for gay, lesbian, and transgender Catholics, the Keltic Dreams Irish Dancers – a group of black, Latino and South Asian students from P.S. 59 in the Bronx, and the San Simon Bolivian dance group.
“It’s something different and new, something exciting to get involved in,” said Denise Jones, Social Director of the South Queens Boys and Girls Club, an organization that has been marching in the parade for the past three years. “The kids really enjoy it and we’ve made it a part of us, something that we do every year.”
Mexican organizations also showed their support, as they honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Irishmen who helped Mexico fight against U.S. invasion in the 1800s.
“We like to march in this parade every year because it is fun and something good to be a part of,” said Patricia Hernandez, president of the Comite Civico Mexicano and creator of the first Mexican Day Parade in Manhattan.
Though faced with a few protestors in the sea of green spectators, many felt and considered this celebration a stepping stone in progress towards an all-embracing future.
“We’ve always been angry that the parade in the city has not allowed gay people to march openly,” said Sherry Rogers, secretary of the Brooklyn-Queens Chapter of the National Organization for Women. “This is everything that we stand for, a parade that is open to everybody where people are able to express themselves.”