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Sunny NYC St. Patrick's Day parade draws huge crowds

A file photo of parade participants marching down

A file photo of parade participants marching down Fifth Avenue during the 249th annual St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City. (Mar. 17, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Under sunny blue skies, a green Irish Sea of about 250,000 paraders in marched through Manhattan Wednesday in the 249th annual St. Patrick's Day parade, as cheering spectators lined Fifth Avenue three to four people deep.

Grand marshal Ray Kelly, the New York police commissioner, said it was an honor to lead the parade this year after years of marching in the police contingents.

"It feels great, I do it every year," Kelly said. "It means a tremendous amount for an Irish American."

Of the day's lovely weather, Kelly joked, "I ordered it. I take full credit for it."

For most of the afternoon, the sounds of bagpipes and drums will reverberate up and down Fifth Avenue. Politicians including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David A. Paterson and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy are marching.

The St. Patrick's Day extravaganza will be the last of New York City's world-famous parades to take place before new restrictions go into effect April 1 requiring all parades to be shorter in time and length to save money.

Seaford resident Victoria Bardes and about 10 of her friends and family hopped on a 7:45 a.m. train to the city to catch the parade.

The festivities began early, Bardes said -- her group indulged in alcoholic beverages on the way into the city.

Bardes marched in the parade when she was a student at Seaford High School and continues the tradition now as a spectator.

"I make a point of being here," she said, because "just the atmosphere is so great. Everybody is having fun."

A word about driving into the area: don't. The subway, namely the IRT Lexington Avenue 4,5, and 6 lines, are among the best ways to get to various viewpoints. Not only will Fifth Avenue be closed but parade staging areas extending from 44th Streets to 46th Streets near the parade will be closed.

Officials recommend taking the train into Manhattan. If you are keeping the car at home, the same is true for your favorite alcoholic beverage. Parade officials warn that public drinking of alcohol during the parade is prohibited and that cops will issue tickets, make arrests and confiscate the beverages.

With as many as 2 million revelers expected to jam the two mile long route, sidewalks will be packed, particularly south of 59th Street. For that reason parade organizers are advising people who want to avoid the throng to consider watching from 66th Street north to 86th Street. Organizers also recommend that the upper steps of Metropolitan Museum of Art at 82nd Street provides a good vantage point.

One NYPD official said that the area north of 73rd Street also has traditionally been lightly populated with onlookers.

With Sophia Chang

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