By SAMIA AFSAR and ENRICO DENARD
Waves of green flushed away the somber gray weather as New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade rebounded following two unlucky years. The parade, which has been a longstanding tradition since 1762, was one of the first events canceled due to the spread of Covid-19 and the March 2020 lockdown, and was held as a virtual event only.
This year it was back, but attendance was relatively light in comparison to pre-pandemic parades. Watch a bit of it here
About 1,000 marchers and spectators stretched down the traditional 35-block parade route along Fifth Avenue. The sounds of bagpipes echoed down each block as parade observers followed the line of march with much room to spare. But, with city mask and vaccine mandates lifted a week prior to the parade, patrons spilled out of Irish bars and pubs, brawling over pints of Guinness instead of the traditional scrimmage over a decent front-view of the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
However, the parade still drew people of all races and ethnicities to demonstrate their own Irish pride, even while fears of Covid-19 and war loom.
“We’ve had a tough two years and now with everything else that is going on in the world, the city needs a day to distract itself and celebrate freedom,” said 29-year-old attendee, Suzanne Murphy. Attendees showed the 17th of March is as good a time as any to have a day of distractions, and happy hours at every bar on the avenue made sure of it.
Mayor Eric Adams, Governor Kathy Hochul, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, along with many other public officials, paraded with New Yorkers and foreign participants. It was a day of firsts, as Adams celebrated his first St. Patrick’s Day as the mayor by kick-starting his morning with a two-stop bar crawl at Irish pub Connolly’s and Pig N Whistle, where he indulged in two pints of Guinness before appearing at the parade.
Some who joined the lines of bystanders came from Ireland to watch, despite leaving behind Ireland’s very own St. Patrick’s Day parade, braving flight times as long as 10 hours or more. “We flew in from Cork, Ireland,” said brothers Flor and John O’Mahoney, “We came here just for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, it’s the best in the world.”
38-year-old Claire Murphy also traveled from Cork, Ireland to be in attendance. “New York just does it [the parade] better, ‘’ she said. “With Covid seeming like less of a problem, I just had to be here.”
In true American fashion, a day intended to celebrate Ireland was quickly politicized, with Trump supporters urging onlookers to re-elect the former president in the upcoming 2024 presidential term. “I’m here to make a statement,” said 54-year-old John McGuigan as he waved his “Gays For Trump” flag, which clashed with the Irish green encircling him. “Vote Republican!” He asserted.
At noon, the parade, which was now facing South in the direction of the Twin Towers, came to a halt to observe a moment of silence for those killed on 9/11. Victims of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war were also commemorated at this time.
“Today is about freedom, freedom for everyone in the world,” said big brother John O’Mahoney. “Freedom is a treasure that no one should take for granted,” he added amid the moment of silence.