229th Annual Parade Marches Up Fifth Avenue
NEW YORK (AP) _ The country’s oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parade headed up Fifth Avenue on Saturday amid the strains of bagpipes, a sea of green and, eventually, a torrential downpour.
But the rain didn’t dampen spirits as hundreds of thousands of people turned out, most sporting something green, whether it was a green moustache, ″Irish Eyes″ glasses with green lenses or leprechaun hats, complete with pointed ears.
″I’ve seen Disneyworld and Disneyland,″ said Bridget Powderly, an Irish- born Londoner in town specifically for the parade. ″This is better.″
The National Weather Service had predicted the rain could hold off until evening, but called it a ″close race.″
About four hours into the parade, the luck of the Irish wore off and the rain won, substantially thinning the throngs of people lined up along the parade route.
About 2 million people watched last year’s parade under sunny skies and organizers had hoped to at least match that.
Ireland’s patron saint was honored with parades elsewhere around the country Saturday. New Orleans’ parade was a feast - literally, as float riders tossed the makings for Irish stew, including cabbages, potatoes and carrots, to people lining the streets.
In the Northern California city of Dublin, officials decided to give up the traditional St. Patrick’s Day green beer drinking contest.
Mayor Paul Moffatt said he had mixed feelings about dropping the event, but said ″you don’t want to advertise to young people that it may be all right to get snockered.″
While New Yorkers were lamenting the rain on their parade, thousands of people in Kansas City, Mo., considered themselves blessed with sunny skies.
″We’ve had rain on every parade for the past five or six years,″ said parade organizer Bill Richerson. ″This one will be the best we’ve had in several years. It’s really helped the spirit.″
The Kansas City parade had more than 170 entrants, including marching bands, family floats, jig bands and ″Bugs O’Bunny.″
For New York’s event, the usually natty Mayor David Dinkins wore a shiny green jacket purchased specially for the occasion of his first parade as the city’s chief executive.
He was joined by about 125,000 other marchers - including Gov. Mario Cuomo, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and former Mayor Edward I. Koch.
″It’s a little bit of heaven,″ said Kathleen Sheridan, who came from Ridgewood, N.J. to watch her fiance, a police officer, march.
″I love the horses,″ said 3-year-old Sean Patrick Comiskey, whose entire family was bundled in green sweaters.