St. Patrick's Day

The parade was crowded.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

  • I attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City this year.

  • It was an enjoyable, if somewhat disappointing, experience.

  • Next year I’m sticking to just sitting at a bar and sipping a Guinness.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place each year on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

A marching band participates in the annual St. Patrick's Day parade down 5th Avenue on March 17, 2018 in New York City.  The St. Patrick's Day parade in New York is the largest in the world.

A marching band participates in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade along Fifth Avenue on March 17, 2018.Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been held in New York City nearly every year since 1762, making it the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world. Around 150,000 people march every year, according to the organizers, and the parade attracts 2 million spectators.

It takes place on March 17th every year, unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case it takes place on Saturday March 16th. But this year, St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday.

I’ve spent many St. Patrick’s Days in New York City, but I’ve never attended the parade, so I decided to go to Manhattan and check it out.

a man dressed in green

The other revelers.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

I’ve lived in New York City for four years but grew up on Long Island and happened to be visiting family on St. Patrick’s Day. So I dragged my mom and younger brother and we drove to the Long Island Rail Road to catch a train into town.

I was ready to fill the train with revelers, but actually it was almost empty. There were only two people dressed in green on the platform.

When we got to Grand Central Terminal, I spotted more people dressed for the occasion, some with beers in hand.

Drinking beer at Grand Central

Drinking beer at Grand Central.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

When I arrived I saw more people dressed in green including more than a few people with beers and other drinks. A group of guys had a box of Millers that was finished.

The train station was also lit up green that day.

grand central illuminated

Grand Central was festively decorated.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

That was pretty cool.

But once I got to the parade route, it all went downhill. I started at the end of the parade route at Fifth Avenue and 78th Street and it was already crowded.

crowds of me

The crowds at the end of the parade.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

At least our side of the street. The other side, the park side, could be a bit deserted at times, but as far as I could see there wasn’t an easy way across.

The parade goes up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street. Living on the Upper East Side, I figured we’d start at my apartment and work our way through the day. I’m not sure if that was the best plan – the end of the parade route turned out to be a lot less crowded.

As I walked I couldn’t help but notice all the road closures and no parking signs. It must be a nightmare living on the parade route.

No Parking

No Parking.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

There were over two dozen road closures along the parade route, which can make getting around the city an absolute nightmare.

While I enjoyed watching the fife and drum bands, sometimes the bagpipes would start playing after they were already over.

good place for seflies

However, it was a good spot for selfies.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

We missed a few bands just because we were standing.

This was partly our fault as we chose the spot but at least three bands walked past us in silence just to play a block or two further. It was annoying so we drove on to try to time our stops better.

There was also a lot of waiting and staring at the empty street.

the empty streets

The empty streets.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

I went to college in New Orleans, so I’ve attended dozens of Mardi Gras parades in my time. In my experience it would never be that amount of empty space during one of those parades between the floats, dancers and marching bands.

As this parade has no floats and is instead more of a celebration of the Irish-American community, I felt there was quite a bit of a break between the bands.

As we continued walking downtown, I thought that some of the groups of people marching in the parade looked like crowds that happened to stray onto the route.

aimless people

protesters.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

My family and I were amazed by some of the groups that marched in the parade. Members of the New York City Police Department and New York City Fire Department were all in their best attire, the marching bands and dancers wore flashy costumes, and most organizations had matching sashes or hats.

But every once in a while a group would pass by that looked like they’d sneaked onto the parade route.

I also had to dodge tourists, souvenir sellers, and college students drinking BORGs.

souvenir seller

A souvenir seller.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

BORGs are the latest drink craze: the name stands for “Blackout Rage Gallon,” and Insider reports they’ve already made quite a splash on college campuses. On my journey, I passed a group of three girls each holding giant water jugs filled with an unidentifiable green liquid. They had “BORG” written on the side.

I also avoided tourists, people trying to sell items to those tourists, and some people who appeared to be drunk.

I wasn’t expecting it to be political, either, but things could get a little tense between a group at Trump Tower, several signs calling for England to withdraw from Ireland and a few flyers criticizing the police union president .

Trump tower

The scene in front of Trump Tower.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

A crowd of supporters stood outside the entrance to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, waving flags and banners that read “Trump 2024.” I could sense some uneasiness around the supporters as they shouted loudly at both the parade-goers and the protesters, but nothing ever came of it.

There were also several signs reading ‘England Get Out of Ireland’, which the Irish Central says is the only political sign allowed at the actual parade. I hadn’t realized it had been part of the parade for decades.

Leaflets were also posted during the parade criticizing Patrick Lynch, the President of the Police Union and an aide to the Grand Marshal of the Parade. Fliers said he shouldn’t be involved in the event.

The union, Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, did not respond to Insider’s request for comment. Neither did the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade Organization.

As we neared Midtown, where the parade began, it got more and more crowded. Also, thanks to detours, it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable to walk down Fifth Avenue.


diversions.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

We had to keep walking the half block just to cross the street which got old very quickly.

Or we had to wait in longer and longer queues.

ever longer queue

One of the lines.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

This was one of the lines to cross the street, which got longer and longer as the crowds increased. It took up to 10 minutes just to cross.

March in New York City isn’t the most picturesque time either.

scaffolding everywhere

scaffolding and bare trees.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

This is obviously not the fault of the parade or its organizers and thankfully it was relatively warm outside this year. But March in New York City can be brutal.

After walking 28 blocks we reached St. Patrick’s Cathedral. At this point, people also became a bit more belligerent.

me in st.  patrick's cathedral

St Patrick’s Cathedral.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of New York City’s most famous landmarks. It opened its doors in 1879 and has been open to everyone ever since. I couldn’t get close because I was on the parade route, but it was still powerful to be close.

Unfortunately, it seemed like some of the parade participants were getting a little too excited. I saw people drinking, screaming and swaying at this point on the route.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the day, I found the parade underwhelming—in my opinion, it doesn’t compare to Chicago’s green river or the boisterous celebrations of Boston.

do the parade

The parade.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

For me, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was decently entertaining but not worth the hype.

I would recommend finding an Irish pub nearby and partying there instead.

Read the original article on Insider


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