St Patrick's Day Parade livens New York with sound and color

March 17, 2018 - 12:07 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Manhattan's Fifth Avenue came alive with the sound of bagpipes, trumpets and drums and lots of green Saturday during the 257th running of New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade.

Several bagpipe bands led a parade made up of over 100 marching bands after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, spoke briefly as the festivities began, calling it a "day of inclusion" and saying: "We're all immigrants."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat, marched with police officials including police Commissioner James O'Neill under sunny skies with temperatures in the 40s as some among the relaxed spectators sipped coffee to stay warm several days before the start of spring.

The parade, which began at 11 a.m., typically lasts for nearly six hours. Before it ends, an estimated 150,000 marchers were to make the 1.4-mile (2.2-kilometer) trek past Central Park, St. Patrick's Cathedral and Trump Tower.

A big event in the city since the mid-1800s, the parade has been a celebration of Irish culture and of Irish immigrants, who once faced nativist calls for their exclusion from the workforce — and from the country — when they began arriving in the city in huge numbers during the Irish Famine.

For the 167th time, the lead group marching in the parade was 800 members of the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, of the New York Army National Guard. The regiment, once predominantly made up of Irish immigrants, first led the parade in 1851 as a deterrent to anti-immigrant violence.

This year's grand marshal is Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chairman of The American Ireland Fund, a group that has raised millions of dollars for philanthropic projects in Ireland, including funding for integrated schools for Catholic and Protestant children in Northern Ireland.

She was riding along the parade route in a Central Park horse carriage, driven by a family friend.

The parade's organizers were once involved in annual fights over whether to exclude openly gay groups from the march.

Those battles, though, are now history. This year, at least two groups in the parade have banners identifying marchers as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

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