‘Fighting 69th’ Infantry Regiment to lead New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade for 171st time

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NEW YORK – Millions are expected to line Fifth Avenue again on Thursday for the return of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The long-standing tradition is back after a two-year absence due to the pandemic.

Mayor Eric Adams raised Ireland’s national flag at Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday as the city prepares to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.


Mayor Adams raises flag in honor of early Irish immigrants

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New York Army National Guard soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment – or the 69th Fighter, as it is known – will lead the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the 171st time.

“Even last year in the time of COVID and in 2020 the battalion didn’t march but our battalion commander took the colors and marched the parade route even though there was no parade just to keep up the tradition,” said battalion commander Maj. Michael Clifford told CBS2’s Alice Gainer.

The Fighting 69th was originally a militia unit for Irish immigrants, and in 1851 they were asked to lead the annual parade of Irish Catholics in the event of anti-immigrant violence.

“It’s an Irish Brigade. You can see it everywhere. Our mascots are Greyhounds, Irish Greyhounds,” Clifford said.

To honor their heritage, on parade they carry a fighting stick made of blackthorn wood from Ireland and carry a sprig of boxwood.

“I hope this will be a sign of a new beginning for New York and for the country after the pandemic,” said Hilary Beirne, along with the parade and the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Foundation. “We honor, this year, first responders as well as the American workforce and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Irish state in Ireland.”

At noon, the parade will stop in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to say a prayer for those who have died of COVID-19.

“And also who we lost on the anniversary of 9/11, we couldn’t recognize last year,” Beirne said. “The Police Department, Fire Department, Port Authority and 69th Regiment will have color guards in front of the cathedral. They’ll be tap dancing and ‘Amazing Grace’. Once that’s done, we’ll resume the parade.”

Hartsdale’s Maria Regina High School Band will make their parade debut on Thursday. They will be the only all-female marching band in the parade.


An all-girl marching band prepares for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York

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Although not all of the smiling eyes on the parade route are Irish, they still proudly celebrate the Irish roots of unity.

“The battalion as it is today transformed and really supports the people of the town, so although many of our soldiers are not Irish by birth or descent, they are all Irish here when they arrive at 69th,” Clifford said.

As they say, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

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