It was pure sunshine on March 24 as the 26th annual Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day Parade made its way down Third Avenue.
The annual affair went off without a hitch, organizers said, and drew crowds far beyond just the neighborhood’s Irish contingency.
“It was so nice to see everyone come together whether they were Irish or not,” said Parade Committee President Denise Frederick. “Everyone had smiles on their faces.”
Parade Committee Vice President Richie O’Mara called the parade “spectacular, from start to finish.”
“From our kickoff mass at St. Patrick’s Church to the blessing of the parade’s memorial headstone commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising and from the honoree’s breakfast reception to the march along Third Avenue, we couldn’t have asked for a better turnout or weather,” he said.
This year’s grand marshal was Sr. Febronia Lowenstein.
Deputy marshals included Bernadette Buckley Kash, Frances Koren, Chrisie Canny, Stephen Clavin, John Cadotte, James Cassidy, Helen Mitchell and Eddie Moloney.
The title of 2019 Family of the Year went to the Edwards family, who celebrated aboard a float.
Marshals are chosen by the committee based on their heritage and service to the community at large. “Their tireless service to Bay Ridge is a great testament to our Irish-American community,” Frederick said.
The neighborhood staple was held this year in loving memory of Sally Kabel, the Bay Ridge girl known to many as “Sweet Sally Sunshine.” Sally, who spent most of her young life battling leukemia, ultimately beat the disease but the harsh treatments took a toll on her young body. She died on Sept. 19, 2018 at just six years old.
Bay Ridge rallied behind Sally at the time of her diagnosis, just as her hometown rallied behind her family in the wake of her passing.
Ribbons – gold to commemorate Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – cropped up across the neighborhood seemingly overnight. Schools encouraged students to wear gold. Sunflowers (a symbol, Sally’s parents said, they never quite associated with their daughter) began popping up everywhere in the days after her death – a sign, they felt, that their child was okay.
On Sunday, Bay Ridge rallied behind the Kabels again – many marchers holding tight to handmade sunflowers, and sporting gold amidst a sea of green.
The weather, Sally’s dad Matt said, felt like yet another sign from his little girl.
“We’ve attended the Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the last 15 years and this was the warmest and sunniest one that we could remember, so we know our Sweet Sally Sunshine was there with us,” he said.
“Sally was the great unifier of Bay Ridge,” Matt went on. “It was an honor to have the Parade Committee hold the parade in her memory, and our hearts were warmed to see friends and supporters from all different views and backgrounds come together again to march for Sally.”
Earlier this month, O’Mara also called Sally a unifier.
“It’s impossible to imagine a person in Bay Ridge that doesn’t know of Sally, her courageous, inspiring life, her loving and devoted family, and her legacy as an unmatched unifier,” he said. “Indeed, Sally continues to inspire us to be kind to each other, to dance and to find joy in even the hardest of times.”
O’Mara also attributed the parade’s massive turnout, in large part, to the dedication.
“It would be easy to attribute one of our largest contingents of marching groups and bands, the swell of crowds along the route and the flawless weather to the ‘Luck of the Irish,’ but we know in our hearts that because the parade was dedicated to Sweet Sally Sunshine, she is due most of the credit,” he said. “Indeed, her indomitable spirit and sense of joy were infused throughout all the day’s activities, leaving no one unmoved by her memory along the route. Countless smiles and cheers rose from the spectators as each group passed by — the bands, step-dancers and pipers never failing to entertain!”
“Bay Ridge always supported our little girl,” Matt said. “We are blessed that they continue to support our family today.”