Category: Archive

Sun brings out the crowds for the big parade

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

But the 247th parade will go down in the history books as something of a standout, as well as step out.
It will also be remembered for fine weather and a grand marshal who exemplified the Irish American story of arrival, assimilation and ultimate elevation.
Tommy Smyth set out on his march up Fifth Avenue with the sun on his back and a tear in his eye.
“I feel great,” said the Knockbridge, County Louth native moments before the parade clicked into gear at precisely 11 a.m.
That was moments.
Just a few minutes before, several parade officials and aides were anxiously staring up the avenue trying to spot Tommy.
But the man who commentates on soccer for a living and will talk to anyone and everyone else in between games wasn’t going to miss his moment of glory.
He emerged from a small knot of people into full view, resplendent in top hat, tails and a pair of reliable shoes.
Cheering him along was a large crowd crammed behind the barriers at the 44th Street parade starting point, certainly a big one by normal Monday standards.
The weather, always a critical factor, was behaving itself and was in stark contrast to last year when snow, slush and chill air made marching and viewing from the sidewalks much more of a challenge.
St. Patrick’s Day in New York is a feast of events, an opportunity for impromptu street concerts by pipe and drum bands and normally a major landing zone for politicians.
But this year was different due to the shock resignation from the state governorship of Eliot Spitzer.
Spitzer’s fall, however, had come after some printing deadlines. Though he was still the state’s chief executive at the start of the parade he was no longer so two hours into the march.
The parade line of march had Spitzer’s name on it while the Governor’s Breakfast at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel sported Spitzer’s name on the invitation; but it was New Jersey’s intermittent governor Richard Codey who ended up presiding at the event sponsored by The Ireland Chamber – United States.
Back on Fifth Avenue, the long view up the painted green line was clear for mostly retired and up and coming politicians. With Mayor Bloomberg heading for Albany and the swearing in of new governor David Paterson, it was left to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to take the lead as the city’s highest-ranking marcher while the best known politician on view was former mayor and presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani.
The parade was officially started by NYPD assistant chief Michael Collins and to the repeated chant of “Irish,” the 69th led the way up Fifth, past St. Patrick’s Cathedral where Cardinal Egan had celebrated pre-parade Mass, past protesting Irish gays at 57th street, past the newly resplendent Plaza Hotel, past the reviewing stands where visiting Irish government minister Mary Hanafin stood an appreciative watch, past the refurbished American Irish Historical Society and so on into the parade’s very own history book.
Along the way the green-bedecked onlookers cheered and chanted. The city’s firefighters, back in their normal line of march slot, were led by the 343 flag-carrying “probies” who now annually honor the memories of firefighters who fell on 9/11.
Six judges, including John Walsh from New Jersey, took careful note of marching units, their form and their instrument playing and above it all, a spring sun delivered warming rays from a brilliant blue sky.
It was, many agreed, a parade that was relatively free of controversy in a year when one of the biggest rows centered on the merit or otherwise of the song Danny Boy, banned just days before by a Manhattan bar.
Well, Danny doesn’t scare easily, He was rendered with strong voice at the governor’s breakfast and belted out along the parade route by pipers from as far away as Spain.
By late afternoon, Tommy Smyth’s parade had almost walked its course. Soon afterwards it had concluded. “One in the old onion bag,” as the man himself would put it.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese