Throggs Neck transformed into an emerald city once again as thousands celebrated the 15th annual Bronx St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Amid a sea of green and under sunny skies that melted away a snowstorm, the sound of whining bagpipes and cheers for marchers echoed along E. Tremont Avenue on Sunday, March 10.
Leading scores of marching groups were the three grand marshals: Rosemary Lombard, Joe McManus and honored clergymember Father Stephen Norton of St. Benedict’s Church.
“God bless the Irish, God bless the Bronx,” declared Fr. Stephen, wearing a red, white and green sash, declared as he stood with McManus and Lombard at a breakfast inside St. Benedict’s prior to the parade.
Lombard and McManus, proud Irish folks, were especially humbled to be this year’s grand marshals.
McManus, a union leader and lifelong Bronxite, called it his greatest honor. “It’s like raining shamrocks,” he told the church crowd while son Mike recorded his remarks, cheering along.
Lombard, a retired Bronx teacher of Irish descent, hopes the parade can keep the story of Irish immigrants alive.
“If you don’t try to keep it going,” said Lombard, “it will fade away.”
The breakfast wrapped up with Congressman Joe Crowley serenading the crowd with his rendition of “Danny Boy,” hushing a crowd eager to show off some Irish pride.
It was a day for families and friends to line the parade route, with face-painted shamrocks on young and old and other Irish-themed decorations for on-lookers lining the mile-long parade, which lasted 90 minutes.
Fifteen families marched on behalf of loved ones who died last year. The departed were memorialized with commemorative banners and given the title of honorary grand marshals by the Throggs Neck Parade Committee.
The family of Peter Christopher Junta Jr. not only marched with a banner, but they also were decked in green t-shirts honoring the 19-year-old, dead from a heart attack.
“He always put others needs before his own,” said Junta Jr.’s father Peter.
Maureen Burke of City Island sipped on a drink while watching the parade from Brewski’s bar.
“It’s more than having a beer,” said Burke, a post office manager. “It’s recognition of all the hard work our ancestors brought to make this happen.”
Burke paused for a moment, choking back tears as she thought about her grandmother, nicknamed Mammy, who immigrated from Ireland in the early 1900s to become a lifelong butcher in Manhattan.
Revelers soon moved the St. Patrick’s day party to the local saloons, bar hopping to Brewski’s, Throggs Neck Clipper, The Wicked Wolf and others.
Rob D’Alessandro inched his way to the counter to order two Angry Orchard drinks.
“I can’t get too out of hand, I have work tomorrow,” he said, admitting he has no Irish blood, though he was quick to point out St. Patrick was not from Ireland.
“St. Patrick was Italian, “ he noted, “so you gotta represent.”
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383