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Irish pride shines in Queens

The luck of the Irish extended to Sunnyside Sunday, where participants and spectators of the 11th-annual St. Pat’s for All Parade were treated to warm temperatures down the parade route.

The parade was started in 2000 in protest against the Manhattan St. Patrick’s Day Parade down Fifth Avenue, which does not allow gays and lesbians to march.

Brendan Fay, one of the Queens parade’s organizers, said this year’s event drew double the number of the participants in the previous one.

Just about every Queens elected official attended the gathering and expressed their support for the parade’s spirit.

“It’s wonderful to support St. Patrick’s Day in a parade that includes everyone,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), who put emphasis on the word “everyone.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the event “is one of the fun parades.”

“This is the kind of parade that every parade should be — open to everyone. Period, end of story,” he said.

The parade featured everything from bagpipe bands to fire engines and Bolivian dancers.

Bob Lesko, a political activist from Manhattan, said he prefers the Sunnyside parade because it embodies more of the Irish spirit.

“I find this parade, with all its constituent groups, so much a part of my Irish roots — being progressive,” he said. “It reflects what happens in Ireland — gays and lesbians march in every parade.”

Catherine Moore, who moved from Dublin to Sunnyside 23 years ago, said the parade reminded her of her youth in Ireland.

“This is huge in comparison” to the Manhattan parade, she said. “This is like something you’d see in Ireland. It’s very relaxed and very Irish. Even in Dublin, where in Manhattan it’s very staged.”

Moore brought her sons, Oisin, 10, and Cian, 12, to the parade.

“It’s just fun to come out and listen to the music,” Cian said.

Oisin said he got a thrill from the bagpipe bands.

“I just enjoy watching all the people go around,” he said.

Chris Connelly of Flushing said the Sunnyside event is the only “normal” parade in the city.

He screamed at U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), who was marching along the parade route, asking him to run for governor.

“You’d wish that on me?” Weiner quipped.

Victoria Campos, 6, of New Jersey said she got a kick out of the Bolivian dancers, fire engines and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Ray Ferdinand of Sunnyside said he was drawn to the parade’s diversity.

“I like the mix,” he said. “I thought it would be all Irish, but it’s people from everywhere getting down and that’s wonderful.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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