For the estimated 2 million people at the St. Patrick's Day parade Tuesday, it was more than a chance to be part of a celebration, it was an opportunity to witness history.
OUT@NBCUniversal became the first LGBTQ organization permitted to openly march in the parade's history.
The group, made up of about 100 LGBTQ employees of the parade's broadcaster, NBCUniversal, marched up Fifth Avenue around 3:30 p.m. to cheers and applause.
"It's exciting to celebrate our love for Ireland and our love for equality," said Caitlin Harris, 18, of Greenwich Village, as she watched the parade with her mother.
The excitement began earlier in the day as revelers, who were decked out in green from head to toe, lined Fifth Avenue to check out the dozens of marchers, bagpipers, dancers and others who took part in the 254th parade. Cardinal Timothy Dolan served as the grand marshal and greeted parade-goers with handshakes throughout the march.
"It's a great show of New York pride, the pride of St. Patrick and the energy of the city," said Mary Hieronymi, 53, of Moriches. "You can't beat it."
For the second year in a row, the parade went on without Mayor Bill de Blasio and the whole City Council. The mayor and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said though the inclusion of OUT@NBCUniversal was a good change, they were disappointed that other LGBTQ groups weren't allowed to march this year. The St. Patrick's Day parade organizers said they would look at applications from the groups for the 2016 march.
The mayor did, however, attend the annual Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral -- arriving about 15 minutes late.
De Blasio, who has been criticized for frequently being tardy to events since becoming mayor, said he was delayed by the St. Patrick's Day breakfast at Gracie Mansion earlier in the morning that ran past schedule. The breakfast ceremony started late, a mayoral spokesman said, because de Blasio met first with a smaller group, including the day's honoree, former newspaper columnist Pete Hamill, and other dignitaries, "and the morning's program ran longer than anticipated."
"I think the moral of the story is, we're going to start the breakfast even earlier next year, because that's a little bit of a tight time frame we have. We have to do better next year," de Blasio told reporters later in the day.
With Matthew Chayes