By Rebecca Henely
When Sunnyside and Woodside’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade steps off Sunday, the 2,000 spectators expected at the event will see not only bagpipers and Irish dancers, but Chinese kite-flyers, Mexican dancers and a plethora of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups.
About 80 groups, some with 100 members, will march down Skillman and Woodside avenues for the St. Pat’s for All Parade, an all-inclusive parade that Co-Chairman Brendan Fay began after gay and lesbian Irish groups were banned from marching in Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1999. This will be the parade’s 12th year.
“I’m very proud that in Queens, in Sunnyside, this Sunday a most unique parade will take place,” Fay said.
The parade assembles at 1 p.m. and kicks off at 2 p.m. Beginning at 47th Street and Skillman Avenue, the parade will travel east until 56th Street. From there, the parade will move north on 56th Street one block before turning east on Woodside Avenue and ending at 58th Street.
This year’s grand marshals include Patricia Lewsley, the Northern Ireland commissioner for children and young people, and Brig. Gen. Jim Cullen, who acted as an adviser to President Barack Obama on matters of human rights.
“This is a coming home for Jim,” Fay said. “Jim grew up in Sunnyside.”
The event features a wide cross-section of people, from young students, performers and athletes to elderly LGBT groups. Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, co-chairwoman of the parade, said children always lead off the parade.
“I’m really happy about the children’s groups that are growing because that’s my focus for the parade,” D’Arcy said.
As always, the parade will also feature marchers from a variety of ethnic communities. Special guests will be participants in Chinatown’s Lunar Parade for All, which they said was inspired by the St. Pat’s Parade, according to Fay.
“I also love the multiculturalism,” D’Arcy said. “From the beginning we welcomed all different groups and we tell them that we want to share our immigration history.”
Many elected officials will also be participating in the parade. Openly gay City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) will be coming as will openly gay City Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Fay said. City Comptroller John Liu will attend as well. Fay said Mayor Mike Bloomberg had not confirmed that he was coming to the parade as of press time Tuesday evening, but Fay said Bloomberg participates every year and is expected to come this year.
“All of us are excited and proud,” Fay said.
Van Bramer, whose district includes the parade route, said he is looking forward to marching in the parade and meeting everyone before it begins.
“This particular parade is a real celebration of diversity in all of its forms,” Van Bramer said, “and that’s always a pretty terrific thing to celebrate.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.