Feb. 28, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
The annual Sunnyside/Woodside St. Pat’s For All parade will take place on Sunday, March 5, with dozens of groups already signed up to march.
The parade is Sunnyside’s largest event each year, and several Irish cultural groups, LGBT organizations, music groups and a multitude of marching bands are expected to take to Skillman Avenue and be cheered on by adults and children decked out in emerald, green.
St. Pat’s For All celebrates Ireland, inclusivity and diversity, organizers say. Last year more than two thousand people took to the streets of Woodside and Sunnyside to celebrate the gathering.
The parade, now in its 23rd year, will follow its traditional route Sunday beginning at Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street before finishing at 58th Street and Woodside Avenue.
Music and speeches will begin at noon with the parade kicking off at 1 p.m.
The parade was initially organized as an LGBT-inspired event after a group of Irish men and women were not permitted to march in the 1999 St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Ave under a gay banner.
The Sunnyside event has since evolved to be considered more of a community-driven celebration with a large cross-section of the neighborhood participating.
A number of high-profile politicians have spoken at the event in recent years including former Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Charles Schumer, as well as Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carolyn Maloney.
Last year the event was heavily represented by the City Council with representatives from Queens — including Julie Won and Tiffany Cabán — the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan present. State lawmakers such as state Senator Michael Gianaris were also in attendance, as was New York Attorney General Letitia James and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, the Co-chair of St. Pat’s For All said that the parade will again be a celebration of diversity and togetherness.
“Our motto of ‘cherishing all the children equally’ will be represented by the smiles and joy of so many children and families along the route,” Walsh D’Arcy said.
“In the words of community activist Jim Burke: ‘we’re straight, we’re gay, we’re Muslim, we’re Catholic, we’re atheist and we’re all Irish today and celebrating together.’” Burke is a well-known local LGBT activist and open streets advocate.
The grand marshals of this year’s parade will be Paul Muldoon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from Northern Ireland and former radio/television producer with the BBC in Belfast, and Cáit O’Riordan, a musician who is known for being a member of the London-Irish punk band The Pogues in the 1980s and for playing with various bands and performers throughout her career.
The parade will be led by the FDNY bagpipe band and will feature several other marching bands including the County Cork Pipes and Drums as well as regulars such as the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance, Girl Scouts of Sunnyside Woodside and the Shannon Gaels Gaelic Football Club.
Fogo Azul, a 50-member, New York City-based all-women Brazilian Samba Reggae drum line band are also expected to return.
Walsh D’Arcy said that the Lavender and Green Alliance, an Irish LGBT group established by St. Pats For All founder Brendan Fay, will also take part. In 2016, it became the first group to march under a gay banner at the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue.
Fay, a community activist, founded the parade in 2000 after being arrested several times while trying to march with a gay rights group at the Fifth Avenue parade in the 1990s. He then worked with activists to establish the Sunnyside/Woodside event.
Fay, an Irish immigrant, stepped down from his role as co-chair of the event in 2021.
He told the Queens Post/Sunnyside Post previously that the event has played a big role in the movement toward LGBT and immigrant equality.
St. Pat’s For All, he said, was the first parade in New York to allow LGBT groups to march behind their organization’s own banner. Today, nearly all St. Patrick’s Day parades in the state welcome LGBT groups, and in 2016, Fay’s Lavender and Green Alliance marched in the Fifth Avenue parade for the first time.
“The communities of Sunnyside and Woodside said, ‘everybody belongs… everybody is part of this,’” Fay said after the 2020 parade.
“And this parade, this Irish celebration of inclusion and welcome, is so genuine and so real [that] people travel from… outside the city just to come to this St. Patrick’s celebration.”
Registration for the parade is free, and individuals and groups who would like to join can do so by clicking here. Registration will remain open through March 5, organizers said.