Two million spectators will line Fifth Avenue in New York City this Thursday for a tradition that has lasted nearly 250 years. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people covered in green will march down Fifth, forming a train more than a mile long. And somewhere, lost in the chaos that is the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, will be the Londonderry Lancers Marching Band and Colorguard.
About 300 Marching Band and Colorguard members from Londonderry attend this annual parade, considered to be the largest and oldest in America. The band has been invited to attend every year since 1995 and has only missed one parade in 2003. “But we don’t refer to that one any more,” said Andy Soucy, Music Director for Londonderry High School.
The parade will begin at 11 AM this Thursday, March 17, 2011 and will end sometime between 4:30 and 5 PM. The parade will be broadcast live on NBC, and can also be watched live from computer or hand held device at the official New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade website.
Be sure to watch for the Londonderry Lancers in the parade this Thursday. They’re scheduled to step off behind the United States Navy Honor Guard, Astures Spain Pipe Band, and just before the Quinnipiac University Alumni Association of New York. Also, check back here throughout the day Thursday, as we will publish updates as they come in from the band in the the Big Apple.
In honor of the 250th anniversary, we have included a brief history of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. This history comes from the official website of the parade.
The History of the Parade
The parade was first marched on March 17, 1762 on lower Broadway in New York City by a band of homesick Irish ex-patriots and Irish military who served with the British Army stationed in the American Colonies. This was a time when wearing green clothing was a sign of Irish pride and was banned in Ireland. Participants of this first “parade” reveled in the freedom to speak Irish, wear green, sing Irish songs, and play Irish tunes that were meaningful to the immigrants. The first few parades were organized by military units.
After the War of 1812, Irish fraternal and beneficial societies began organizing and hosting the parades. By the mid-1800′s, the individual societies merged under a grand marshal and the size of the parade grew greatly. For the past 150 years, members of the National Guards 69th Regiment, known as the “Fighting 69″, have proudly led the way up Fifth Ave in New York City. Following the regiment are members of various Irish societies of the city, 32 Irish County societies, various schools, colleges, Emerald societies and many more.
Find out what’s unique about this parade. Click Read More!
On March 17, 2002, after the tragedy of 9/11 struck the city, at midday, all participants in the parade stopped and turned to face south towards the site of the Twin Towers. The mile and a half long parade paused for a full two minutes while a prayer was said in honor of the men and women who fell victim to the tragedy. This was first time in the history of the “City That Never Sleeps” that a dropped pin could be heard on Fifth Ave.
According to Patricia Collins, a Lancer Marching Band member and 2004 Londonderry High School Graduate who attended the 2002 parade, the moment of silence occurred before the band stepped off. “We were in a street off to the side, so we couldn’t see this coming, but you could hear this jet from way off and we’re all looking to see where it’s coming from, thinking it’s a fly-by. It was applause from the crowd coming down the street. I will never forget that moment or how loud it was,” said Collins.
The 2002 parade has also been the largest to date. An estimated 300,000 people marched and there was an estimated 3 million spectators lining Fifth Avenue. This same parade was the first time in history that the President of Ireland watched.
Unlike many parades today, the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day parade allows only marchers. Automobiles and floats of any sorts are not allowed in the parade. Each year between 150,000 and 200,000 people travel on foot up Fifth Ave. An estimated 2 million people line the street to watch, and an additional more than half million watch via television and internet. The parade is marched each March 17, except when the 17th falls on a Sunday. The parade will then be marched on the Saturday before due to religious observances.