By Paul Lomax and Sarah Tan
MANHATTAN — Irish eyes were smiling Saturday as New Yorkers geared up for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations across the city.
Revelers began lining Fifth Avenue for the 251st annual parade, which kicked off at 11 a.m. and runs from 44th Street to 86th Street.
"How can you say no to St. Patrick's Day in New York City?" said Julie Haar, 27, of Randolph, N.J., standing wrapped in an Irish flag on Fifth Avenue and 44th Street.
She planned to join her father, Vietnam veteran John Titterton, 62, also of Randolph, to march in the thousands-strong parade.
Sisters Elise Person, 13, and Mary Kate Person, 8, came all the way from Philadelphia to partake in the festivities.
"This our first time marching, and it’s great fun” Elise Person said, with a pair of glittery shamrock stickers pasted on her cheeks. “I can't wait!"
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who led the parade as grand marshal last year, basked in the balmy weather while walking the route Saturday.
“It was the prefect day for the parade," he said. "You couldn’t ask for a better day. Everyone is Irish today."
In the East Village, a gaggle of partiers packed early into local pubs, including the landmark McSorley's on East Seventh Street, where a line stretched down the block to gain entry into the historic watering hole.
"I got on line at 6:30 — the doors open at 8," said Gary Patella, 35, from Brooklyn, noting he visits McSorley's every St. Patrick's Day. "If you don't get here by 6:30, you won't have a chance of getting in until the afternoon."
At the Irish pub Lunasa on First Avenue, revelers cheered the holiday's all-inclusive nature.
"Everyone can take part in this holiday," said Paul Davies, who is originally from Wales, "because the Irish are so friendly."
Visitors are encouraged to view the parade — led this year by Grand Marshal Francis X. Comerford — by heading north of 66th Street to avoid the crowds packing sidewalks along Fifth Avenue, according to the parade’s website.