The St. Patrick's Day Parade has returned to Manhattan's Fifth Avenue after a two-year pandemic hiatus. Revelers and marchers were arriving hours before the 11 a.m. start time on Thursday, despite the gloomy weather.

Morris Kenneally flew in from Ireland for the celebration, and gave New York some props for the parade. "We're over for the parade, to celebrate the end of the pandemic, so we said no better place in the world than New York... you do it better than we do."

Roisin Bradley also came in from Ireland. "This is my first time in New York," she said. "We were meant to go here two years ago, COVID shut everything down, but we got here in the end."

One parade official called it “the biggest public event in the world since the pandemic." Close enough?

"We came across just for the special day," Craig McCafferty, who flew in from Scotland to attend, told Gothamist. "Gonna see it, gonna have fun, have a few drinks."

The parade started at 11 a.m. and will march up Fifth Avenue, from East 44th Street to East 79th Street. It typically ends around 1 p.m., at which point revelers filter into bars like the historic McSorley's on East 7th Street, where there was plenty of celebrating last year despite the parade being canceled.

Eric Adams at Pig N’ Whistle on West 48th Street

Eric Adams at Pig N’ Whistle on West 48th Street

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Eric Adams at Pig N’ Whistle on West 48th Street
Elizabeth Kim / Gothamist

Coming in all the way from Brooklyn was Melissa Stokes, who was excited to be back after two years. "I've been here many times, and I'm back and loving this day, whether there's sun, rain, snow, I've been here. I'm here to enjoy it!"

Fellow Brooklynite, Mayor Eric Adams, is attending the festivities throughout the day as well. He began his morning with a wee pub crawl at two Irish bars in Midtown. At Pig N’ Whistle on West 48th Street, he sat at a booth drinking a Guinness with the bar owners and members of National Guard from the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry known as the “Fighting 69th.” The group leads off the parade every year.

“It’s good to see people back out again,” said Eugene Wilson, one of the bar owners.

Wilson said Adams talked about getting more people to come back to the office. The Dublin native, who has operated the bar for 18 years, said his customers are mostly working hybrid at this point, working three days a week in the office. “It’s not really enough to meet payroll and rent at the same time,” he said.

Adams was greeted with celebratory handshakes and selfie requests by patrons. But outside the bar, a handful of parents held protest signs against the city’s masking requirement for children under five in schools and daycares.

“I got this,” the mayor told them. “I’m a dad.” Adams has said he would eventually lift mask wearing for the youngest children once his experts determine there is no spike in cases.

The NYPD, FDNY, and the NY State Police all fielded large contingencies, all of which received hearty cheers from the spectators, as did the multiple pipes and drums corps who made their way up from 44th to 79th Streets. 

It was a party most of the way, but there were some solemn moments. At noon in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, all of the marchers stopped and observed a moment of silence for those killed on 9/11, and those who died afterward from working at ground zero, before about-facing south in the direction of the Twin Towers. 

A group of FDNY officers carried an American flag for each of 343 (and counting) men and women among their ranks who died as a direct result of the attack that day. The victims of the pandemic were also honored during this time. 

The first version of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC was on March 17th, 1762, held by Irish soldiers serving in the British army. And the parade grew from there, as more Irish immigrants came to the U.S. in the mid-19th century.