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Open arms at St. Pat’s for All

The 12th-annual St. Pat’s for All parade braved rainy weather Sunday afternoon, displaying its message of acceptance and the importance of Irish culture as it made its way along Skillman Avenue from Sunnyside to Woodside.

Heralded as the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the city to accept gay rights groups in its lineup, the event was a trailblazer, attracting marchers still barred from other events in the city such as the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade, also held Sunday, and Saturday’s Rockaways St. Patrick’s Day Parade. No other major St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the city is allowing such groups to participate this year, according to City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).

The procession has become an institution for Queens residents of all backgrounds, and despite the gloomy forecast, it ended up being great fun for marchers and viewers alike.

“It’s just a great neighborhood parade, universal and very diverse. Even on a rainy day people still came out to watch the parade,” Sunnyside resident Brian Cabezas said as the last of the marchers strolled by his post along Skillman. “The rain stopped for the parade, and now it’s started back up again.”

Featuring marching dogs in green bow ties, politicos including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and representatives of Irish, LGBT and civic groups, the parade was not the longest one in the city but was one of the liveliest. Openly gay Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), openly gay Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and city Comptroller John Liu also participated in the parade.

Grace Ouma of Sunnyside said she enjoyed the fact that the parade reflected all the facets of her community.

“We live a few blocks away and we like to support it because it’s local,” she said. “It’s cool that it’s all-inclusive, there were a lot of LGBT groups marching in the parade.”

Matthew Baker of the Bronx brought his 6-year-old son Alexander along to the parade, bedecking him in a large, green leprechaun’s hat for the festivities.

“I thought it would be nice to come out and check out the parade. Alexander’s very excited about the parade,” Matthew Baker said. “It’s good that there’s a place where people of all different stripes can come out.”

But that sentiment was not shared by all the onlookers at Sunday’s festivities as a small cadre of protesters showed up to hold up disapproving signs and speak out against the inclusion of gay groups in a St. Patrick’s Day event.

“Everybody’s approving this, but in the future it will affect everyone because children will think this is how a family should be. A family should be between a man and a woman,” said Woodside resident Sonia Ramirez. “I’m a religious person and God’s against these kinds of parades.”

Ramirez shared the views of some participants in the Staten Island parade, where a confrontation took place between an organizer and a marcher wearing a button displaying the name of a gay rights advocacy group, according to Dromm.

Bloomberg was greeted with a much warmer reception in Sunnyside than he was at Saturday’s Rockaways St. Patrick’s Day Parade. During that event, he was booed and hecklers yelled at him, denouncing his education policies, snowstorm clean-up debacle and more.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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