Bagpipes, Kilts Abound As NYC Celebrates St. Patrick's Day

Saturday, March 17th 2007, 5:08 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ An ice storm wiped away the traditional green stripe painted on Fifth Avenue, but it could not keep away thousands of St. Patrick's Day celebrants from the city's parade on Saturday.

``We came to party!'' declared Una Murray of Dublin, Ireland, who carried green, white and orange balloons and sported fake green braids.

Revelers came to watch the 246th parade, pressing against police barricades to cheer marching bands and men and women in uniform. The event typically draws 2 million spectators and 150,000 marchers.

By late morning, Fifth Avenue pubs were packed with people wearing green hats, green boas, green ponchos and flashing green necklaces. People walked the sidewalks with green hair and eyebrows.

An older woman wore a green cowboy hat and green disco-ball earrings. A police dog patrolling near St. Patrick's Cathedral wore a green bandanna.

In Savannah, Ga., thousands of gaudy green revelers crammed the downtown for what was billed as the nation's second-largest St. Patrick's Day parade. Parade organizers anticipated crowds as big as 700,000, though Savannah police predicted fewer than 500,000.

The revelers stood 10-deep along sidewalks, and were served cocktails under party tents in the oak-shaded squares.

``If you can sell me about four hours of sleep, I'll gladly pay for it,'' said reveler Rick Parrish, 54, who has been in Lafayette Square since Thursday to stake out a prime viewing spot. ``I'm kind of rejuvenated now. I just went out and took a little sponge bath by my truck.''

In New York, the celebration as in past years was preceded by another March tradition: an annual bit of Irish infighting.

After past controversies over an IRA-linked grand marshal and the exclusion of gay groups from marching, this year's hostilities pitted parade boss John Dunleavy against the Fire Department.

Dunleavy moved FDNY marchers from their traditional spot at the start of the parade to a location much further back. The shift was a response to an incident last year when New Orleans firefighters delayed the parade while unfurling a banner thanking New York for its aid after Hurricane Katrina.

Dunleavy also annoyed firefighters by complaining that many showed up drunk for the march.

Along the parade route, FDNY members seemed unwilling to let the tiff disrupt the festivities.

Firefighter Jimmy Smith grinned as he prepared to join the procession with the department's Emerald Society Bagpipe Band. Despite the bare knees, he said, gesturing at his kilt, ``I'm nice and warm.''

Few of the revelers lining the route seemed aware of any controversy.

Dwayne Carr, wearing only a kilt and a light shirt, said he was thinking about his plan for what to do after the parade.

``Go and find a pub,'' he said.