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Here’s to 2-5-2

Al Smith IV leads bands, marching units

By Ray O'Hanlon

It was a parade full of the joyful and the poignant. It was also a parade of two meteorological halves.

The 252nd New York St. Patrick's Day Parade marched into the history books last Saturday with Grand Marshal Al Smith IV following in the footsteps of his namesake great-grandfather, and with many thousands of pairs of feet following in his.

Those earlier followers were doing fine in shoes. Waterproof boots were the better choice later in the day after what had been a dry morning had turned into a snowy afternoon.

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But weather is never a deterrent to the marchers, nor to green and Aran-clad spectators lining the 35 block parade route on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.

With Cardinal Timothy Dolan in Rome, Cardinal Edward Egan celebrated the pre-parade Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral and greeted marchers from the cathedral steps.

Those marchers included students, parents and the high school band from Newtown, Connecticut. They marched behind a banner proclaiming "We Are Newtown, Connecticut - We Choose Love."

Led, as it is every year, by the fighting 69th, the parade attracted marchers and bands from all over the U.S., as well as from countries around the world including Spain, Canada, France Australia, and of course Ireland.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny marched with the United Irish Counties. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Peter King were among the participating politicians.

Other marching units included Covenant House, with 50 formerly homeless teens following the green line up the avenue, and the Breezy Point Catholic Club Pipe Band, whose members lost all of their instruments and uniforms in Hurricane Sandy.

The band used donated equipment and rented bagpipes and uniforms paid for with donations.

By day's end the scene looked more like Christmas than St. Patrick's Day. But it would take a lot more than snowflakes to stop this parade on its appointed day. And so, it duly joined the 251 that have gone before it. 253 beckons.