NYC’s Tartan Day Parade

New York City’s Tartan Day Parade doesn’t have the long history of many of the city’s parades, but it has interesting origins. According to the New York City Tartan Week organizers,

In 1998 the U.S. Senate declared April 6 to be National Tartan Day to recognize the contributions made by Scottish-Americans to the United States. In 1999, two pipe bands and a small but enthusiastic group of Scottish Americans marched from the British Consulate to the UN—our first Parade! Since then, we have grown to include hundreds of pipers, thousands of marchers and many more thousands cheering from the sidelines.

The National Tartan Day New York Committee was formed … in 2002 to organize the Parade and co-ordinate all the associated activities which surround the Parade. There are now so many it has become Tartan Week, with a definition of “week” as anything, so far, from 7-21 days.

Now that we know why they’re marching, let’s watch the parade! As you’ll see, there are plenty of tartans, bagpipes, and drums – although not everyone is wearing plaid. One of the fun things about this parade is that some pipe and drum corps will allow unaffiliated bagpipers to march with them, as long as they can play the 4 songs required for the parade: Scotland the Brave, Rowan tree, Blue Bells of Scotland, and Bonnie Prince Charlie. The sun was shining brightly, so please forgive the lighting in some of these shots.

Now for one of my favorite parts of the parade: the Scottie and Westie dogs!

As we were leaving, I spied this creature peeking out above the crowd – could it possibly be Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster?

New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

One of New York City’s most famous parades is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held in Manhattan on March 17 each year. New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has a long history that stretches back to 1762. (I don’t think that there are any NYC parades with a longer tradition!) The parade has so many participants that it lasts approximately 5 hours, offering something for everyone to see. The parade participants march up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street, and the least crowded viewing is in the latter blocks.

One of the key features of the parade is the many Pipe and Drum Corps, many sponsored by Irish societies such as the Emerald Society within New York City’s Police (NYPD) and Fire (FDNY) Departments, but also coming from other organizations. Here are a few of my favorites.

First, the Pipes and Drums of FDNY’s Emerald Society.

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There was the NYPD Band, as well as the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums.

NYC Police Band

NYCPD

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The New York State Police were also well-represented.

New York State Police Honor Guard

NY State Police Pipes and Drums

NY State Police

And here are the Pipes and Drums of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

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There are also associations representing Irish immigrants and their Irish-American descendants, with many having roots going back to the nineteenth century. They are often led by beautiful banners like the ones shown here.

Limerick flag

Galway Assn of NY

County Meath Assn flag

Of course, there are also the marching bands. A number of high school marching bands participate in the parade, like the one shown here. (This is the Cicero-North Syracuse High School Band.)

Cicero-North Syracuse High School Band

The U.S. Armed Services also send bands to perform in the parade, as well as honor guard units. Here is the U.S. Air Force, followed by the U.S. Navy.

U.S. Air Force Honor Guard

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There was the U.S. Military Academy’s West Point Band.

West Point Band

And even students from high school Jr. ROTC units.

Xavier High School Jr ROTC-photo1

There were representatives from the U.S. Park Police.

US Park Police

St. Patrick’s Day is a day when New Yorkers of every background are Irish for the day. Nothing represents this better than the participation of performers from some of the city’s Hispanic cultural organizations, whose members also are known for playing bagpipes. (They also participate in the Hispanic Day Parade, a fabulous parade that I’ve described previously here.)

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Finally, one of the most powerful parts of the parade was the FDNY 343. A total of 343 New York City firefighters each carry an American flag as they march in formation, memorializing the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in New York City on 9/11.

FDNY 343

If you are in New York City for this or any of the other parades that New York City has to offer, I recommend that you attend – it’s an opportunity to celebrate the city’s diverse residents and traditions.