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Syracuse steps out

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

A light dusting of snow is a regular feature of the event, he added. However, Channel 9’s Tim Fox told the Echo, “It’s never been cancelled, regardless of the weather.”
And he pointed out that the parade committee proudly describes it as “the largest St. Patrick’s Parade, per capita, in the United States,” and third only in absolute numbers to New York City and Savannah’s.
The fact that 100,000 people turn out for an event that had been defunct for 40 years until 1983 is itself remarkable. Everyone in Syracuse puts it down to an extraordinary force of nature, Fox’s fellow broadcaster at Channel 9, Nancy Duffy, who died on Dec. 22.
“She started it all,” said David Hoyne, a former Kilkenny hurler who was last year’s grand marshal. “She did Trojan work. I don’t know where we’d be without her.”
Hoyne explained the appeal of the parade thus: “Winters are very tough, and people look to St. Patrick’s Day as the start of our spring,” he said.
“The Irish attitude is: ‘Look on the bright side,'” he added.
“Upstate New York has its challenges economy-wise, and development-wise, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
And of the parade, Hoyne said simply: “It’s for the whole community. People love it.
“There’s a great sense of community; it’s about banding together,” he said.
But he also likes to keep the Irish traditions alive year round with music nights at his establishment, Kitty Hoyne’s bar and restaurant, named for his mother Catherine. It was from his father Michael, however, that he learnt the business back home.
Hoyne won all-Ireland medals at minor, under-21 and other levels and broke into the senior team the year before he immigrated in 1985. But it was a fallow period for the senior Cats, who wouldn’t win another cup until 1992.
He worked in Washington D.C. for 15 years, before he and his wife Cindy decided to move to her home area, Syracuse.
“It has a great home town feel,” he said.

Parade themes
When Hoyne was approached to be grand marshal last year his response was: “‘You have to be kidding me?’ But we took it on.”
And it was a great success. In just one day, they raised $200,000 for the children’s cancer charity, St. Baldrick’s.
Last year’s parade theme was “A Little Piece of Heaven.” The theme – sometimes lighthearted, often serious, or even both — is one of the interesting features of the Syracuse parade.
In 2005, it was “Our Heroes in Uniform – Thank God the Irish Did Apply!”
This year’s is “Irish Trailbrazers” not least, said Hoyne, because the Irish did just that in Central New York — they blazed the trail for everyone else.
“It’s a very Irish town — a lot of Irish influence since the time they came over and built the Erie Canal,” he said.
The region has a lot in common with Ireland, said Hoyne; even the landscape has its gently rolling hills.
There’s a certain irony here, he believes, given that the region is not economically dynamic right now, yet Ireland is experiencing reverse immigration for the first time.
He’s a regular visitor home to Kilkenny. “I’ve four brothers in Thomastown. I always look forward to seeing them,” Hoyne said.
Bill Normoyle — whose parents came from Clare and Kerry in the 1920s and whose wife is from Leitrim — delights at Central New York’s direct ties to Ireland. He said that the Irish American Cultural Institute has a lecture series devoted to perspectives of people born in Ireland.
“There are many Irish activities and organizations in Syracuse,” Normoyle said. He should know, because he’s been active in most of them: the AOH, the IACI, the James Joyce Club (many of whose members, of course, aren’t Irish), the Gaelic Athletic Association and so on.
But it was Nancy Duffy, who was the community’s driving force, he said.

Sadly missed
Briefly a nun and a divorced mother of two sons, Duffy was the only TV reporter allowed to stay inside the American Indian Movement’s compound during the takeover at Wounded Knee, S.D. (She was descended from Carlow native Myles Keogh, the hero of Little Big Horn.)
An article in Syracuse Post-Standard the day after Duffy’s death said she “was the first female reporter in Syracuse television. She often found time to teach courses at Syracuse University, write poetry, create charcoal and chalk drawings, lead a campaign to save the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and volunteer for a wide range of civic organizations and causes, often with links to her Irish heritage.”
Obituaries cited in particular her involvement with Project Children and also her continued support for Native-American causes.
The Post-Standard quoted a longtime friend Sheila Shattuck: “I’m telling you, she hovered between heaven and Earth. She was always putting herself in the background as much as she could. She had a great sense of humor, was a great organizer, and had an adventurous, free spirit, and was always helping other people.”
Duffy, who had had heart problems going back a decade, was one of the seven founding members of the Syracuse James Joyce Club in 1994. The club’s newsletter commented recently: “To our delight she participated in Bloomsdays right through her spectacular presentation of the chapter of ‘Ithaca’ last June 16.”
It continued: “We’ll miss her voice on the phone, her counsel in the workings of the James Joyce Club, and her insight into the literature of Joyce.”
Yet despite an impressively full resume, Channel 9 and the local papers were agreed that her greatest achievement and legacy was the revival of the Syracuse St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

25th Annual Parade Details

The 2007 grand marshal is Cornelius (Neil) Murphy Jr., the president of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. The Gael of the Year is John Farrell (native of County Longford), retired from the Hotel Syracuse and a longtime manager in the hospitality industry. He worked at the Four Seasons and Tavern on the Green before coming to Syracuse.
The line-up will include 150 marching units, dozens of bands and floats, the Joseph Ferko String Band from the Philadelphia Mummers Parade and celebrity appearances. This year’s theme is: “Irish Trailblazers.”

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