I attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City this year.
It was an entertaining, if a bit underwhelming, experience.
Next year, I’ll stick to just sitting at a bar and sipping a Guinness.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is held every year on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been held in New York City 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 every year, and the parade attracts 2 million spectators.
It’s held on March 17 every year, unless that date falls on a Sunday — in that case, it’s held on Saturday, March 16. 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 have never attended the parade, so I decided to head to Manhattan and check it out.
I’ve lived in New York City for the last four years, but I grew up on Long Island, and I happened to be visiting my family on St. Patrick’s Day. So I dragged my mom and younger brother with me, and we headed to the Long Island Rail Road to catch a train to the city.
I was all ready for the train to be packed full with revelers, but it was actually almost empty. There were just two green-clad people on the platform.
Once we arrived at Grand Central Terminal, I began spotting more people who were festively dressed, including some holding beers.
When I arrived, I saw more people dressed in green, including more than a few people with beers and other drinks. One group of guys had a case of Miller all ready to go.
The station was also lit up in green for the day.
This was pretty cool.
But once I hit 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.
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 get across 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 figured we’d start by my apartment and work our day down. I’m unsure if that was the best plan — the end of the parade route turned out to be significantly less crowded.
As I walked, I couldn’t help but notice all the road closures and no-parking signs. It must be a nightmare to live by the parade route.
There were over two dozen road closures along the parade route, which can make getting around in the city a total nightmare.
While I enjoyed watching the pipe-and-drum bands, sometimes the bagpipes would start playing after they’d already passed by.
We missed a few bands just because of where we were standing.
This was partially our fault, since we picked the spot, but at least three bands silently walked by us only to start playing a block or two up. It was annoying, 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.
I went to college in New Orleans, so I’ve attended dozens of Mardi Gras parades in my time. In my experience, there would never be this amount of blank space during one of those parades between the floats, dancers, and marching bands.
Since this parade doesn’t have floats and is instead more of a celebration of the Irish-American community, I found there was quite a lot of downtime between bands.
As we continued downtown, I thought some of the groups of people marching in the parade looked like crowds who just happened to get on the route.
My family and I were perplexed by some of the groups who were marching in the parade. Members of the New York City Police Department and New York City Fire Department were all dressed in their best, the marching bands and dancers wore eye-catching costumes, and most of the organizations had matching sashes or hats.
But every so often, a group would come along looking like they’d snuck their way onto the parade route.
I also had to dodge tourists, souvenir sellers, and college students drinking BORGs.
BORGs are the latest drink craze: The name stands for “blackout rage gallon,” and, as Insider has reported, they’ve caused some trouble on college campuses already. On my journey, I walked past a group of three girls each holding giant water jugs that were filled with an unidentifiable green liquid. They’d written “BORG” on the side.
I was also dodging tourists, people trying to sell items to those tourists, and some people who seemed drunk.
I also didn’t expect it to get political, but between a group at Trump Tower, multiple signs calling for England to get out of Ireland, and a few fliers criticizing the police union president, it could get a little tense.
Outside Trump Tower’s Fifth Avenue entrance, 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 yelling loudly at both paradegoers and marchers, but nothing ever came of it.
There were also multiple signs with the phrase “England Get Out of Ireland,” which, according to Irish Central, is the only political sign allowed in the parade proper. I hadn’t realized that it’s been part of the parade for decades.
Also posted throughout the parade were fliers criticizing Patrick Lynch, the police-union president and an aide to the Parade Grand Marshal. Fliers said he should not 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 got closer to Midtown, where the parade started, it got increasingly crowded. It also got more and more inconvenient to keep walking down Fifth Avenue thanks to detours.
We had to keep walking halfway down the block just to cross the street, which got old really fast.
Or we had to wait on increasingly long lines.
This was one of the lines to cross the street, which became increasingly long as the crowd grew. It took up to 10 minutes just to cross.
March in New York City isn’t the most picturesque time, either.
This obviously isn’t the fault of the parade or its organizers, and luckily, it was relatively warm out this year. But March in New York City can be brutal.
After walking 28 blocks, we made it to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. At that point, people were also starting to get a bit more belligerent.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of New York City’s most famous landmarks. It opened its doors in 1879 and has been open for anyone to visit since then. I couldn’t get close to it because of where I was on the parade route, but it was still powerful to be close by.
Unfortunately, it seemed like some of the parade attendees were getting into the spirit a little too much. I saw people drinking, yelling, and swaying at this point in the route.
While I was pretty entertained by the day out, I did find the parade underwhelming — in my opinion, I don’t think it compares to Chicago’s green river or the raucous celebrations in Boston.
To me, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was decently entertaining, but not worth the hype.
I’d recommend finding your local Irish pub and celebrating there, instead.
Read the original article on Insider