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Borough St. Pat’s parade honors fallen fire chaplain

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All of Queens was Irish Sunday as marchers from the Emerald Isle joined Mexican dancers, Korean drummers, politicians and borough residents in the third annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Sunnyside, which drew larger crowds than ever.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg took part in the parade down Skillman Avenue and was joined by U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and several other elected officials from Queens.

Borough President Helen Marshall also marched in this year’s parade, which was dedicated to Fire Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, who was killed in the collapse of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center Sept. 11, and the theme “cherishing all the children of the nation equally.”

Queens’ top elected official spent the end of the parade enthusiastically clapping and cheering for each group that marched after her — including a Mexican dance troupe, Korean musicians, marching bands, puppets, as well as gay groups — as they made their way to the end of the event at Woodside Avenue and 60th Street.

First organized by Astoria resident Brendan Fay in 1999, the borough’s St. Patrick’s Day parade was created as an inclusive alternative to the traditional Manhattan parade, which has excluded gays and lesbians from participating.

The parade drew a relatively large audience despite thunderstorms that were predicted and canceled Great Neck’s planned parade for Olympic Gold Medalist Sarah Hughes earlier in the day. The wet weather never materialized during the day and spared the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

U.S. Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) and City Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing), Eric Gioia (D-Woodside) and David Weprin (D-Hollis) marched in the parade. City Comptroller William Thompson and his predecessor, former Comptroller and Forest Hills resident Alan Hevesi, also took part.

The day’s success was shining on Fay’s delighted face as the afternoon wore on. The parade organizer shouted and smiled as he watched the end of the marchers trail past him. At one point the smiling Fay even joined a group of children in Irish step dancing.

Fay said honoring Judge, who gave the blessing for the parade two years ago, was a symbol of the event’s goals.

“He was a keen supporter of the inclusive spirit of the Queens parade and so we are heartened that representatives of the fire brigade and ambulance services are traveling from Ireland to join us this year,” he said.

Friends of Judge marched in the parade, carrying a large photo of the fire chaplain who was killed by falling debris from the World Trade Center attack.

“First off, Mychal made the weather clear,” said Mychal McNicholas, a friend of Judge’s who was smiling. “He brought people together and that’s what this is all about.”

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

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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