March 3, 2022, By Michael Dorgan
The largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Western Queens is back this weekend after being canceled last year due to the pandemic.
The St. Pat’s For All Parade, which typically sees thousands of people line the streets of Sunnyside and Woodside, will take place Sunday, Mar. 6.
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.
The parade will follow its traditional route 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 spoke at the event in 2020 including former Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Senator Charles Schumer as well as Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carolyn Maloney.
Brendan Fay, a community activist who founded the parade, has stepped down from his role as co-chair of the event.
Fay, an Irish immigrant from County Kildare, founded the event in the year 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.
Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy is the new chair of the parade having served as co-chair alongside Fay for the last 15 years.
Walsh D’Arcy said she can’t wait to see marchers returning to the streets of Sunnyside and Woodside.
“It’s very exciting and everyone is looking forward to greeting our friends and neighbors again.”
Walsh D’Arcy, however, said it will be a challenge to replicate the large attendance numbers seen in previous years, given the impact the pandemic has had on some residents.
“We are still hoping to have a big parade,” she said.
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.
Walsh D’Arcy said that the Lavender and Green Alliance, an Irish LGBT group founded by Fay in the 1990s, 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.
Like previous years, a number of anti-war groups are also anticipated to march. Walsh D’Arcy expects a large number of participants to line up behind those groups this year given the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez and State Senator Jessica Ramos have confirmed they will be at the event, Walsh D’Arcy said. She added that Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul – whose grandparents immigrated from Ireland – are likely to attend.
The parade is being dedicated to Tarlach MacNiallais, a Sunnyside resident who died from COVID-19 in 2020. MacNiallais, an Irish immigrant, had been an LGBTQ-rights and disability-rights activist.
He was also a long-time St Pats For All board member. The intersection at 43rd Avenue and 49th Street was co-named Tarlach MacNiallais Way in his honor in December.
Members of MacNiallais’ family will be the Grand Marshalls of the parade, Walsh D’Arcy said.
The weekend’s festivities will kick off on March 5 at the Irish Arts Center, with performances by local Irish musicians.
Groups interested in taking part in the St. Pats For All Parade can register by clicking here.