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St. Patrick's Day Parade Fills Fifth Ave. Despite Controversy

By  Gustavo Solis and Colby Hamilton | March 17, 2014 1:32pm 

 Thousands braved the frigid temperatures to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Midtown.
St. Patrick's Day Parade
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MIDTOWN — Guinness, Heineken and New York's mayor were missing, but Fifth Avenue was packed with green for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade Monday.

"We woke up at 6 in the morning," said Alice Ernst, from Pittsburgh, who came to see her daughter march with her high school band.

"It's crazy, it's fun."

Locals trying to get to work quietly complained while waiting for a parade break so they could cross Fifth Avenue.

Tourists, on the other hand, where impressed by the size of the parade and how many spectators showed up.

"It's not like this back home," said Ronny Erpelding, of Luxembourg. "Everything is little there."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, the City Council and some corporate sponsors said they would boycott the parade because of its policy barring marchers from identifying themselves as openly gay.

 Enthusiastic crowds brave the cold in their favorite St. Patrick's Day attire for this year's parade.
St. Patrick's Day Parade
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Mayor Bill de Blasio spent Monday morning celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, despite declining to march in the annual parade because parade organizers refuse to allow openly gay groups to participate.

De Blasio hosted the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at Gracie Mansion, where he was joined by Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, of Ireland.

The mayor praised the contributions the Irish have made to New York City, calling them “one of the truly foundational communities of this city.”

“The history of this city has been so strengthened, so elevated by the presence of Irish-Americans,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio later attended mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was overseen by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, an ally in the mayor’s push to bring universal pre-kindergarten to the city.

De Blasio, who was baptized a Catholic but who described himself as non-practicing, received a blessing during the ceremony, but did not take communion.

This year's St. Patrick's Day parade lost event sponsorship from Guinness and Heineken as a result of their stance on openly gay participants.

The decision by the beer companies drew the ire of the Catholic League, which on Monday called for a boycott of the brands.

Paradegoers were measured in their take on the controversy.

"I kind of wish he would be here, but I understand why he's not," said Ricky Stuber of Long Island about de Blasio's choice not to march in the parade.