Irish eyes were smiling throughout Brooklyn on Sunday as the borough’s oldest St. Patrick’s Day celebration returned to Park Slope for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The 45th annual Brooklyn St. Pat’s Parade began March 20 with a mass at the Holy Name of Jesus Church at 245 Prospect Park West, after which revelers headed to Bartel-Pritchard Square on the southwestern tip of Prospect Park, where the parade stepped off at 1 pm.
“We couldn’t ask for nicer parade weather or a better day,” said Mary Hogan, parade co-chairperson. “We’re extremely proud of the large turnout, both in terms of marching groups and onlookers. People were happy to be out and amongst friends again.”
As in years past, the coming-together of Brooklyn’s Irish (and Irish for the day) featured several bands and dance troupes, activities for kids like face painting and arts-and-crafts, and old memorabilia reminiscent of the Motherland, such as antique cars from Ireland.
Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Martin “Marty” Maher led this year’s parade as grand marshal, flanked by aides Rita Carron (Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernian, Kings County), Raymond Conlon (United Irish Counties Association of New York, County Sligo Association), Maureen Foley (aide-at-large, parade volunteer), Adam Keaney (Gaelic Sports, Brooklyn Shamrocks Gaelic Football Club), Denis McCaffrey (Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, Kings County), Erin O’Donnell (Irish Culture, Director, O’Donnell Academy of Irish Dance) and Sue Walsh (Catholic Education, St. Saviour Catholic Academy).
Martin Bellew also marched in memory of his brother Sean Bellew, a member of the Grand Council of United Emerald Societies and the Con Edison Emeralds who died since being tapped to help lead the 45th annual parade, originally scheduled for March 2020.
“I was incredibly honored and humbled to serve as the parade grand marshal. I had so much fun out there but the true joy came from marching with many of the scouts I’ve mentored and worked with for over 50 years,” said Maher in a statement provided to Brooklyn Paper. “I’m grateful that I’ve seen them morph into not just men but also upstanding, good citizens. Serving yesterday was also about honoring the dedicated members of the U.S. Coast Guard who work tirelessly to keep us safe around the world. And lastly, I have to express my gratitude and pride for the men and women of NYC Parks who help keep Brooklyn’s 877 parks spaces clean and safe for the public to enjoy all year-round.”
The newest installment of the parade comes 47 years after Irish immigrant John Carroll, a longtime community advocate, helped found the parade to bring attention to various problems plaguing the Irish community in 1975. Carroll’s grandson, Robert Carroll, now represents Park Slope in the state Assembly.
Right before kickoff, event organizers held a “rededication ceremony” to the heroes and victims of 9/11 — whom the parade is held in honor of each year. This year’s festivities were also held in memory of former parade participants Kevin Peter Carroll, Hugh Harvey, Patrick Heaney, Joe Ferris, Charles Hynes, Edward Duffy, Alfred E. Jennings, and Mary McMullan.
Parade co-chair Hogan said that, while this year certainly served as a homecoming for many, next year will be even grander.
“We promise next year we’ll be back — even bigger and better,” she said.
Additional reporting by Aidan Graham