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Disappointing photos show what it’s like to spend St. Patrick’s Day in New York

The parade was packed.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

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

  • It was an entertaining experience, if a little disappointing.

  • Next year I’ll stick to sitting in a bar and sipping a Guinness.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is held annually on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

A marching band participates in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade along 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 takes part 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 almost every year since 1762, making it the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world. According to the organizers, around 150,000 people march each year and the parade attracts 2 million spectators.

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

I’ve spent many St. Patrick’s Days in NYC, but never attended the parade, so I decided to head over to Manhattan and check it out.

a man dressed in green

The other celebrants.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

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

I was prepared for the train to be filled with revelers, but it was actually nearly empty. There were only two people dressed in green on the platform.

Once we got to Grand Central Terminal, I started spotting more people who were festively dressed, including some holding beers.

drink beers at grand central

Drink beers in 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 bunch of guys had a crate of Millers ready to go.

The station was also lit green for the day.

large central illuminated

Grand Central has been festively decorated.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

It was pretty cool.

But once I reached the parade route, things started to go downhill. I started from the end of the parade route at Fifth Avenue and 78th Street, and it was already crowded.

crowds near me

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

At least our side of the street was. The other side, the park side, could be a little deserted at times, but there was no easy way to cross as far as I could see.

The parade goes up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street. Since I live on the Upper East Side, I thought we’d start at my apartment and end the day. 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 have been more than two dozen road closures along the parade route, which can make getting around the city a real nightmare.

While I enjoyed watching the pipe and drum bands, sometimes the pipe bands would start playing after they played.

good place for seflies though

It was a good place for selfies, though.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

We missed a few groups just because of where we were.

It was partly our fault, since we had chosen the place, but at least three groups passed us in silence to start playing a block or two. It was boring so we kept moving to try and time our stops better.

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

empty streets

The empty streets.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

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

Since this parade has no floats and is more of a celebration of the Irish-American community, I found there was a lot of downtime between the groups.

As we continued downtown, I thought that some of the groups of people marching in the parade looked like crowds that happened to happen on the road.

aimless people

Walkers.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

My family and I were perplexed by some of the groups marching in the parade. Members of the New York City Police Department and New York City Fire Department were all dressed in their best, marching bands and dancers wore eye-catching costumes, and most organizations had sashes or sashes. matching hats.

But every once in a while, a group would arrive looking like they had snuck onto the parade route.

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

souvenir sellers

A souvenir seller.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

BORGs are the latest beverage craze: the name stands for “blackout rage gallon” and, as Insider reported, they’ve caused trouble on college campuses before. On my journey, I passed a group of three girls each holding giant water jugs filled with an unidentifiable green liquid. They had written “BORG” on the side.

I was also avoiding tourists, people trying to sell items to those tourists, and some people who seemed drunk.

I didn’t expect this to get political either, but between a group at Trump Tower, several signs calling for England to get out of Ireland and a few leaflets criticizing the president of the police union, it might get a little tense.

trump trick

The scene outside Trump Tower.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

Outside the Fifth Avenue entrance to the Trump Tower, there was a crowd of supporters waving flags and banners with “Trump 2024” on them. I could sense a bit of unease around the supporters as they were shouting loudly at both spectators and walkers, but nothing ever came of it.

There were also several placards with the phrase “England Get Out of Ireland”, which Irish Central said is the only political placard allowed in the parade proper. I hadn’t realized it had been part of the parade for decades.

Flyers criticizing Patrick Lynch, president of the police union and assistant to the parade grand marshal, were also displayed throughout 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 organization of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

As we got closer to Midtown, where the parade had started, it got more and more crowded. It was also becoming increasingly inconvenient to keep walking on Fifth Avenue because of the detours.


Detours.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

We had to keep walking halfway the block just to cross the street, which was getting old really fast.

Or we had to wait in increasingly long lines.

longer and longer line

One of the lines.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

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

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

scaffolding everywhere

Scaffolding and bare trees.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

This is obviously not the fault of the parade or its organizers, and luckily it was relatively warm this year. But marching in New York can be brutal.

After walking 28 blocks, we arrived at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Around this time, people were also starting to get a bit more belligerent.

me at st patrick's cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral.Gabbi Shaw / Insider

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

Unfortunately, it seemed like some of the parade attendees were getting a little too into the mood. I saw people drinking, shouting and swinging at this point on the course.

Although I was quite entertained on the day, I found the parade disappointing – in my opinion, I don’t think it compares to Chicago’s green river or Boston’s raucous celebrations.


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 your local Irish pub and partying there instead.

Read the original Insider article


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