By Jim Scott and Olivia Scheck
MIDTOWN — The streets of Manhattan were flooded with a sea of green as revelers from around the globe watch scores of bagpipers, marching bands and city officials march up Fifth Avenue in the 250th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on Thursday.
The parade was expected to draw more than a million spectators into Midtown and the Upper East Side even though it will be a few blocks shorter this year.
The parade, which began on 44th Street at 11 a.m., marched up Fifth Avenue until East 79th Street this year instead of continuing to the traditional finish line at East 86th Street. The city shortened all parade routes in Manhattan by 25 percent in a cost-cutting measure to save money on police overtime.
The route change didn't seem to deter parade goers, who came from far and wide to take part in the St. Patrick's Day celebration.
Ewan Taylor, 50, flew to New York for the first time with his wife from Scotland for the event.
"I was born on St. Patrick's day and it's always been my dream to come to New York for the parade," Taylor said. "All these different colors and creeds and they're all Irish, just for the one day."
Karim Simmons, 43, found out his great great grandmother was Irish back in 1994 and has attended the parade every year since.
"One day I'll make it to Ireland," Simmons said. "Hopefully I'll win a contest so I can go."
Until then, Simmons says the parade is the best way for him to connect to a part of his heritage that he wasn't exposed to as a kid.
New Jersey resident Julie Walsh has been coming into Manhattan for the parade for decades. Her favorite part is watching the FDNY carry flags commemorating those who died on 9/11.
"It's just a warm, patriotic feeling," Walsh said Thursday.
Author Mary Higgins Clark, a Bronx native, will serve as the parade's Grand Marshall this year. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had the honor in 2010.
Plenty of revelers get carried away at that event, leading police to issue 180 open-container violations and make 30 arrests, for everything from unruly behavior to unlicensed vending and peddling, police said.
NYPD detective Patrick Kelly said he'd experienced the parade as an officer and a marcher, but this year he elected to take the day off so he could enjoy it with his sister and brother-in-law.
"I've worked the parade, I've marched in the parade, this year I'm taking it in with my family and I'm not disappointed," Kelly said. "The weather's great ... it's a nice, happy crowd. That's what St. Patrick's Day's all about."
The city closed dozens of streets Thursday to accommodate the parade and the massive crowds sure to flood Midtown and the Upper East Side.
But the party extended to other neighborhoods as well.
People lined up at 6 a.m. to get into the famed Irish bar McSorley's Pub in the East Village. The bar, which is the oldest bar in New York, started letting them in at 8 and was packed wall-to-wall in half an hour, a bar manager said.
Businesses near the parade route stocked up on alcohol and food in anticipation of brisk business Thursday.
"We assume we'll do a week of business in a day," Brendan Donoghue, 35, the manager of Pig 'n' Whistle on West 36th Street near Seventh Avenue, told the New York Post.