New York City is a town that knows how to celebrate, and the parades of New York are legendary. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, for example, is a national event that, in 2010, was viewed on television by more than 43 million people. Parades take place throughout the year, drawing thousands of spectators to revel in the vibrancy and diversity of New York City.
St. Patrick's Day Parade
New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade started on March 17, 1762, led by Irish military officers stationed in the colonies. Since then, it's grown to more than 150,000 marchers led by the National Guard's 69th Regiment, known as the "Fighting 69." The St. Patrick's Day Parade is does not allow vehicles or floats. The parade is always held on March 17th, unless the date falls on a Sunday, when it's held on the March 16th to allow for religious observances. The parade runs along Fifth Avenue from 44th to 86th Streets and is viewed by over 2 million spectators along the route.
Puerto Rican Day Parade
The Puerto Rican Day Parade takes place along Fifth Avenue from 44th to 79th Streets on the second Sunday in June. The first parade took place in 1958 in Spanish Harlem, and moved downtown to Fifth Avenue the next year. The parade has over 80,000 marchers in 200 groups and 3 million spectators, with more than 125 volunteers overseeing the parade. The parade celebrates the 4 million people of Puerto Rican heritage living in the United States, as well as New York's own Puerto Rican population of 800,000. It has grown to be the largest ethnic parade in the United States. Puerto Rican celebrities regularly take part; past participants have included Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and Rosie Perez.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities celebrate pride week each June, culminating in the LGBT Pride March. The parade attracts about 300,000 marchers each year, with an additional half a million spectators. The march began in 1970 as an annual civil rights march to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969, considered the start of the modern gay rights movement. The Stonewall Riots took place in Greenwich Village when police raided a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, and the patrons, rather than enduring another raid -- the third Village bar raided in a two-week period -- fought back. The parade has expanded its mission to honor those lost to AIDS and celebrates the diversity of the LGBT community. The parade starts at Fifth Avenue and 36th Street, runs along Fifth Avenue to 8th Street in Greenwich Village, then along 8th Street to Christopher Street, taking the parade past the Stonewall Inn and ending at Greenwich Street.
Columbus Day Parade
The October Columbus Day Parade celebrates Italian-American pride. The parade is along Fifth Avenue from 44th to 79th Streets with 35,000 marchers in over 100 groups and one million spectators. The parade is overseen by the Columbus Citizens Foundation, and the first parade took place in 1929. Each year a prominent Italian-American is the Grand Marshal of the parade. Past Grand Marshals have included Regis Philbin, Justice Antonin Scalia, Mario Andretti, Bob and Deloris Hope and Frank Sinatra.
Thanksgiving Day Parade
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade started in 1924 and featured animals from the Central Park Zoo. Helium balloons were added in 1927. Over 3 million people watch the parade live each year along the two-mile route in Manhattan. Watching the balloons being blown up before the parade is an event in itself. Balloons are blown up on 77th and 81st Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue from late afternoon till about 10 p.m. The parade begins the next morning on Central Park West and 77th Street, follows Central Park West to Central Park South, then runs along 7th Avenue to 42nd Street and onto 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) to 34th Street where it ends at Herald Square. The parade takes place rain or shine, and traditionally ends with the arrival of a float bearing Santa Claus.
- TV by the Numbers; Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Floats High; Robert Seidman; December 2010
- Official Website of New York City Saint Patrick's Day Parade: History
- National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inc.: History
- "New York Daily News"; National Puerto Rican Day Parade Promotes Community Effort, Is Great Way to Give Back; Jacob E. Osterhout; June 2011
- NYC Pride: The March
- WNYC.org; Pride Draws Hundreds of Thousands to New York City; Erica Getto; June 2011
- Columbus Citizens Foundation: The Annual Columbus Day Parade
- Huffpost New York: Columbus Day Parade 2010
- Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Parade History
- Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: FAQs
- Fox News Latino; The Puerto Rican Population of New York...; Will Cruz; January 2011
- Columbia University; Stonewall and Beyond: Lesbian and Gay Culture; Ken Harlin; September 2004
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images