NEW YORK, March 18 — New York became the Big Green Apple today as more than two million people crammed into Manhattan for the annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade.
Streets along the length of Fifth Avenue were a sea of green shirts, hats, necklaces, fake green beards and innumerable shamrock leaf-themed trinkets.
Marchers ranging from Irish folk dancers to massed ranks of police in blue inched their way through the city to the rhythms of drums and bagpipes.
Earlier in the day, Cardinal Timothy Dolan — recently promoted from archbishop and now the highest profile Roman Catholic in the United States — gave the traditional morning mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
He then greeted Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other parade leaders as they passed the cathedral.
Down in Washington, President Barack Obama also got in on the Saint Paddy’s fun, heading to The Dubliner, an Irish bar, to sip at a pint of Guinness.
“USA! USA!” supporters chanted, and “Four more years!”
An estimated 40 million Americans have Irish ancestry.
Despite being best known as the first black president of the country, Obama also has Irish roots and came along with an ancestral cousin from Moneygall, Ireland, for his beer, which he seemed to enjoy.
“He finished it,” Dubliner owner Danny Coleman said. In New York, the focus for most of the parade crowd was on soaking up the festive atmosphere — or green-tinted beer, as in the case of large numbers of rowdy pub-goers.
“When we came down on the train this morning there were already the drunks. It was terrible,” Tish Koos, 55, said as she looked for a spot to watch the parade along with her sister Michelle and daughter Amiee.
But the boisterous crowds didn’t really worry the three women from upstate New York, who were decked out in green to honour their Irish ancestors.
“We have strength in numbers,” Koos joked. Mary Kiernan, 55, was one of the relatively few people among the masses who was actually Irish.
She remembered going to much more modest Saint Patrick’s celebrations in her native land.
“At that time, you went to mass then went to the parade in the nearest town. It wasn’t that big, but it was very exciting,” said Kiernan, clad in a velvet green cape.
“I love it here though,” she said.
“Everybody seems to love the Irish people and want to be part of the day.”
Bloomberg, who is Jewish, said it was a day to celebrate immigrants in general.
“It’s a wonderful day to be Irish,” Bloomberg told the New York Daily News.
“Forty per cent of people who live in New York City are from outside America, and that’s one of the great strengths of New York City.” — Afp-Relaxnews