By Bill Parry
The St. Pat’s for All Parade will continue as a vital part of the fabric of the borough even though the march’s founder, and his Lavender and Green Alliance, have been invited to march under their banner at the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan.
“This beautiful parade sent the message that we can unify and be one city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said before he marched on Skillman Avenue in Queens Sunday. “Now brothers and sisters, we have arrived at that better place and on March 17, we will be marching together down Fifth Avenue, all together celebrating the extraordinary heritage of the Irish people.”
Following Sunday’s parade through Sunnyside and Woodside, Astoria’s Brendan Fay said the turnout proved the all-inclusive celebration of Irish culture is here to stay.
“This past parade was evidence enough of the feeling the people of Queens have for St. Pat’s for All and it will indeed continue on into the future,” he said. “It was especially energized this year with the news that St. Pat’s for All will no longer be the city’s only all-inclusive parade now that the Lavender and Green Alliance have been invited to march in the traditional parade down Fifth Avenue.”
The move ends a 25-year boycott of the parade that began when the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization applied to march and was denied in 1991. Parade organizers declared their march to be a Catholic possession and thus gay groups were not welcome, setting off massive protests for years.
After a change in leadership of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Inc., the new chairman of the board, John Lahey, invited the Lavender and Green Alliance to march under their own banner on March 17, de Blasio ended his two-year boycott of the Fifth Avenue parade. Speaking to the crowd in Sunnyside, he thanked Fay and his fellow organizers for providing a beacon of hope for the entire city.
The mayor, who heard boos on Saturday during Rockaway’s St. Patrick’s Parade, got a much warmer reception in Sunnyside. De Blasio spoke from a parade float filled with elected officials including U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) who has not missed a St. Pat’s for All in each of its 17 years.
“It was such a marvelous day and it was great to see the leadership of the city once again make its way to Sunnyside to take part,” Fay said. “As the march continued up the hill on Skillman Avenue, I couldn’t help but turn back over my shoulder to take in the sights of the rainbow flags with the Irish tri-colors. It was a marvelous sight that reflects the very best of our borough. This parade has inspired other people to make their own cultural celebrations as inclusive as ours.”
Van Bramer agreed, saying St. Pat’s for All will not end just because it successfully influenced the policy of the Manhattan march.
“Allowing this parade to continue to grow in importance and spirit helped to propel the change that ultimately happened,” Van Bramer said. “It became something much more than just a protest of the Fifth Avenue parade, it actually became its own very powerful symbol of being both Irish and inclusive.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr