Irish eyes were certainly smiling on Sunday, March 22 as the Bay Ridge Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee kicked off its 22nd annual parade, this year, down the Ridge’s Third Avenue strip.
“We absolutely have a beautiful day,” said Parade President Frankie Marra of the second largest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in the nation. “I want to thank anybody in the city that made this parade what it is today.”
This year was a milestone year, said Marra before kick-off, as he announced the Parade Committee’s first-ever scholarship.
“When I came over three years ago, we vowed that in the near future this parade would give scholarships to children of the five parishes in Bay Ridge,” said Marra, “that we would send one kid from the eighth grade into Catholic High School and give them $1,000.
“I’m proud to say that, this June, we will do that — but not only will we have one child from each of those schools,” he went on, adding that, thanks to generous sponsors, one boy and one girl from Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Saint Ephrem’s, Saint Anselm’s, Holy Angels Academy and Saint Patrick’s Academy will be awarded $1,000 to attend a Catholic school of their choosing.
“We plan to not only keep our Irish heritage alive but to also have kids continue their education in Catholic high school,” Marra said. “That will help keep the schools open.”
That sense of Irish pride echoed throughout Bay Ridge the entire afternoon.
“Let me just say that I love being Irish, even though I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me because today, wherever you come from, everyone in Bay Ridge is Irish,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile, “and, certainly, thats’ a good thing.”
Gentile went on to thank Marra and his committee for “keeping the Irish tradition alive” while congratulating this year’s honorees.
This year’s Grand Marshal was Colonel Joseph Davidson. Deputy Marshals included Colleen Golden, Eileen Brett, Marie Moloney, Jenny Nielsen, Michael Butler, Tom McCarthy, Mick Dorgan and Mark Langton.
“Let’s give it up for a great committee and a great group of honorees,” said State Senator Marty Golden adding that his wife, Colleen, is “always the star” in his house. “This is the second largest Irish parade in the nation, and that’s what it’s all about — our religion, our country and, of course, our heritage.”
This year’s parade was held in memory of Maureen Stramka, a beloved Bay Ridge civic leader who died of cancer last May at age 76.
“We dedicated the parade this year to a giant of the Bay Ridge community,” said Marra. “Everybody knew her.”
This year’s Irish family of the year was the McDonagh/Manning Family.
The line of march included the Bishop Kearney High School Marching Band, Fontbonne Hall Academy, the Xaverian High School Pipe and Drums, and more. This year’s parade also featured a first-time float to honor the fight against childhood cancer.