Irish pride: Spectators cheer on first LGBTQ marchers in Brooklyn St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Irish pride: Spectators cheer on first LGBTQ marchers in Brooklyn St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Photo by Caroline Ourso

This parade brought the cheer — and the queers!

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Brooklynites proudly celebrated their Irish heritage with hundreds of others on Sunday, when they marched through Park Slope during the borough’s eponymous St. Patrick’s Day parade for the first time in the event’s 44-year history.

Organizers’ decision to diversify the parade thrilled its spectators, who cheered the LGBTQ marchers on as they stepped along the pavement, according to a participant.

“We were just overwhelmed with the positive response that we received, both from other marchers in the parade, and from people along the sides,” said Lisa Fane, a co-founder of the Brooklyn Irish LGBTQ Organization, whose members joined the March 17 procession. “We had a great time.”

The privately funded Brooklyn St. Patrick’s Day Parade — which kicks off near 15th Street before snaking down Seventh Avenue, turning onto Garfield Place, and then heading back up towards 15th Street via Prospect Park West — began in 1976, and has grown to become Kings County’s grandest celebration of Irish heritage, according to its chief organizer, who said it now attracts annual participants from roughly 50 organizations, including the Clann Eireann Pipe Band, the O’Malley Academy of Irish Dance, local Boy and Girl Scout troops, the Ancient Order of Hybernians, and Park Slope’s Holy Name of Jesus Church, where many marchers attend mass before stepping off each year.

“It’s a parade that the people want,” said Brooklyn St. Patrick’s Day Parade Chairwoman Mary Hogan.

And earlier this year, Hogan and fellow organizers further expanded its ranks after Fane, her Brooklyn Irish LGBTQ Organization co-founder Matthew McMorrow, and Park Slope Assemblyman Robert Carroll — whose grandfather helped start the tradition — submitted the first application to march from a queer organization since 1999, when parade chiefs denied an application to march from LGBTQ advocates with the Lavender and Green Alliance, whose members led protests at that year’s procession, resulting in their arrest.

The parade’s first formal LGBTQ marchers this year stepped alongside nearly 50 supporters, including Park Slope Councilman Brad Lander, Park Slope Rep. Yvette Clarke, Boerum Hill Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, and Borough President Adams, all of whom walked with giant ribbons attached to their jackets that combined the colors of the Irish and rainbow flags.

Grand Marshall Bernadette Kash, the owner of the Buckley School of Irish Dance on Prospect Park West, led the 2019 festivities, after marching in every incarnation of the beloved procession since its founding, she claimed.

“I had parents tell me the kids couldn’t sleep the night before they were so excited,” said Kash, who processed along with roughly 100 of her students, all dressed in green.

And more pedestrians packed the sidewalks lining the route this year than for marches past, perhaps due to the parade’s newfound diversity — or that it occurred on the day of the holiday it celebrated, according to Hogan.

“The fact that the parade was on St. Pat’s helps,” she said. “We were very happy.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Step to it: Students with the Buckley School of Irish Dance.
Photo by Caroline Ourso