Hundreds of years of British oppression could not eradicate celebrations of Irish culture, marchers said Sunday at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Mineola, so two years of the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t going to put a crimp in their craic, Irish for good times.
Bagpipes skirled and drums boomed as hundreds marched and hundreds more, including Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, lined the streets of Mineola to watch the mile-long route that began at the court complex and ended at the intersection of Jericho Turnpike and Willis Avenue. Massive flags — the Irish tricolor and the Stars and Stripes — hung between fire truck ladders near the reviewing stand.
"Ireland is a country that has been persecuted throughout its history," Bridget Spillane of Huntington said, referring to past centuries of British rule. Spillane, who came to the parade with her 16-year old daughter, a student at the Brooklyn school led by legendary Irish dance teacher Donny Golden, added, "The fact that the music goes on and the dance goes on, it is a triumph."
The parade was canceled last year due to COVID-19 concerns, although some die-hards did walk the route, according to John Doyle, a member of the Irish-American Center of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, who helped organize Sunday’s celebration. The parade was held in early March 2020, one of the last public events on Long Island before the pandemic shut everything down.
"We held our own, we made it, and here we are," said Kathleen Bory, an aide to grand marshal Brigid McNulty, the past president of the Irish-American Center, as the pair reveled in the return of the parade.
"It feels so great to be with family and friends, celebrating our Irish traditions," McNulty said.
The Mineola event is one of the first in a series of St. Patrick’s Day parades held annually across Long Island in March. Many were canceled due to the pandemic, although some marchers, like in Mineola, conducted informal parades last year.
Irish pipe and drum bands, representing Manhattan College, MTA police and IBEW Local 3, among others, marched through Mineola along with school groups, antique fire trucks, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and, of course, the Donny Golden dancers.
"I just want to cover myself in Irish culture today," said Mary Murray of Floral Park, who described herself as "100% Irish-American."
A steady rain greeted marchers as they assembled before the parade began, eventually turning into a chilly mist — called "a soft day" in Ireland. But the skies cleared, the temperature rose, coats opened and scarves came off during the springlike afternoon.
While it is great to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day again with friends and family, Doyle said, it is also important to remember the Irish immigrants who paved the way, people who helped build much of New York City’s infrastructure as well as the NYPD, FDNY and other first-responder agencies.
"They contributed so much to this country," Doyle said. "We have to honor their sacrifice and their contributions."