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Borough hosts 2nd annual Irish parade

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By Kathianne Boniello

The luck of the Irish kept a predicted heavy snowfall from stopping the second annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Sunnyside Sunday, but the expected dire weather kept the crowds away from the borough’s “inclusive” holiday event.

With more groups and marchers participating in the 2001 parade than last year and cheers from those who did line Skillman Avenue to watch the procession, organizer Brendon Fay declared the day a success.

“It’s cold, but look at the warmth in these streets,” an enthusiastic Fay said as the parade wound down Sunday afternoon at Woodside Avenue and 61st Street.

Weather forecasters had predicted the tristate area would be socked by more than a foot of snow in a storm that would begin Sunday afternoon. While the snowfall did not hit Queens with the force expected, spectator turnout was modest.

The 2001 Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade advertises itself as “inclusive” and encourages groups traditionally shunned by the more established Manhattan parade, like those from the gay and lesbian community, to march.

As a result, some invited Catholic school groups and churches spurned requests to join the event, and about four protesters voiced their opposition to the participation of gay and lesbian groups with large signs.

There was one arrest prior to the parade, Officer Louis Cruz said, when a man named Paul Morrissey, 60, allegedly damaged $400 worth of balloons near the parade’s staging area with a pocket knife at about 9 a.m. Sunday morning at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue. Morrissey was charged with criminal mischief and criminal possession of a weapon in the incident.

Despite the protesters, a broad spectrum of ethnic groups, politicians, and community organizations joined in the parade, which started at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue and marched to 61st Street and Woodside Avenue.

Korean dance groups, Irish dancers, environmental groups, politicians, bagpipers, gay and lesbian organizations and a host of brightly colored costumed stilt walkers wowed the children and adults lining the parade route.

Fay said more than 100 groups and 2,000 marchers participated in Sunday’s parade, compared to 70 organizations and 1,500 marchers last year.

“It’s making a statement about a community that they want an end to bigotry, hatred and exclusion,” he said.

Daniel Dromm, a member of the parade committee, said: “I’m really proud of the people of Sunnyside and Woodside who came out and showed their support.”

From the strong beats and tinkling sounds of the Sunnyside Drum Corps to the exotic rhythms of a group of Korean dancers and drummers who performed under the banner of the Korean American Voters Council, music was a trademark of the Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Inclusion in the Queens parade extended to more than just gay and lesbian groups. Falun Gong, a group persecuted in its native China, joined the parade with several large colorful signs and a sea of yellow, green and purple balloons.

A host of politicians and candidates turned out for the parade, including mayoral candidates Public Advocate Mark Green, city Comptroller Alan Hevesi, and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria).

The three men who would be mayor praised the Queens parade’s acceptance of diversity.

“I was here last year and I’ll be here every year,” said Green, who said the Queens march represented the rich texture of the city.

Hevesi, a Forest Hills resident, said “if you believe in inclusiveness, if you believe in tolerance, you have to extend an opportunity to get along with everybody. That’s why I march in this parade and not the one in Manhattan.”

Vallone also touched on the open atmosphere of the event.

“St. Patrick’s Day is for everybody,” he said. “The celebration is for everybody.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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