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One of the oldest in the country, the

One of the oldest in the country, the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City draws up to 250,000 participants. On March 17, 1986, members of the NYPD Emerald Society played the bagpipes. (Credit: Newsday / Richard Lee)

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Secrets of the St. Patrick's Day parade in NYC

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New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade makes its way along Fifth Avenue for the 254th time on March 17, placing it among the oldest parades in the country. And with anywhere from 150,000 to 250,000 people turning out to march annually, it has the most participants of any parade in the world.

The inaugural St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City was held on March 17, 1762, by Irish ex-patriots and members of the British Army who were deployed in the colony of New York. They were ecstatic to show off Irish pride, particularly because it was illegal to wear green during this time in Ireland, according to the parade's website. Notably, the parade doesn't feature floats, automobiles or commercial vehicles -- just people.

In a news release from the White House on Feb. 29, President Barack Obama designated March 2016 as Irish-American Heritage Month. He spoke highly of the positive influence Irish people have had on our country and what's to come in the future.

Here's a look at some of the secrets of the St. Patrick's Day parade that highlight a rich history behind this very New York annual tradition.

The late John Joseph Fitzsimons, a vice chairman

Credit: AFP-Getty Images / Timothy A. Clary

The green traffic line on Fifth Avenue

The late John Joseph Fitzsimons, a vice chairman of the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade directors, and the late Kevin Nelson were responsible for funding the annual tradition of repainting – from standard white to festive green – one-and-a-half miles of a traffic line along Fifth Avenue to guide the marchers down the parade route.

Fitzsimons passed away on Jan. 22, 2016. Before he died, he set aside money to keep painting the line green, Pat Smith, spokesman for the parade, told amNewYork.

Participants walk the mile-and-a-half route sans the floats

Credit: Newsday / Chris Hatch

No floats, no cars

Participants walk the mile-and-a-half route sans the floats that have become central to many parades. On March 17, 1988, city officials marched up Fifth Avenue, from left, then-Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins, Police Commissioner Ben Ward, Mayor Ed Koch, and City Council President Andrew Stein.

The New York Army National Guard's 69th Infantry

Credit: Facebook / 69th NYSV Historical Association

The Fighting 69th has led the parade for 160-plus years

The New York Army National Guard's 69th Infantry Regiment, also known as The Fighting 69th, began leading the parade in 1851 to protect it from people who threatened violence because they opposed the Irish presence in the United States, Joe Brady, the Regimental bagpiper, told amNewYork.

The 69th Infantry Regiment still leads the parade and is followed by a number of NYC Irish societies.

Brady said that, for the parade, his uniform

Credit: Nikki Brady

Regimental bagpiper Joe Brady carries an extra 35 pounds

Brady said that, for the parade, his uniform and bagpipes weigh a total of 35 pounds. That's a good chunk of weight to support while playing a physically tasking instrument that involves intense blowing and squeezing to push air through four different reeds to create sound.

Regimental bagpiper Joe Brady leads the St. Patrick's

Credit: traditionalmusic.co.uk

The songs of the parade

Regimental bagpiper Joe Brady leads the St. Patrick's Day parade physically and in song. He has been playing the bagpipes for 53 years and will be leading the parade for the 26th time since joining the 69th Regiment in 1990.

As he travels along the parade route during the approximate 75 minutes it takes to complete, he plays two traditional songs -- "Garry Owen Jig" on the sheet music above, and "The Rakes of Mallow."

Regimental bagpiper Brady said that a private No.

Credit: AFP-Getty Images / Stan Honda

A private military train

Regimental bagpiper Brady said that a private No. 6 train pulls into 86th Street and Lexington Avenue station to pick up the military personnel after they complete the parade. The train then transports them and their families to the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th streets.

A New York City Landmark, the armory was designed in the early 1900s and, in 1913, hosted the forward-thinking "International Exhibition of Modern Art," a display of works by Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh and others so iconic that has become known simply as the Armory Show.

New York City firefighters based in the Bronx

Credit: AFP-Getty Images / Timothy A. Clary

Beneath the Green Berets

New York City firefighters based in the Bronx began wearing green berets in 1970. On March 17 of that year, members of Engine Company 60, Ladder Company 17 and the 14th Battalion were given hand-knit green berets that had been made by Julia Brown, mother-in-law of Ladder 17 firefighter Willie Cottrel. Five years later, in 1975, then-Fire Commissioner Stephen Murphy signed Department Order No. 44 allowing the group, known as the Green Berets' to participate in the St. Patrick's Day parade.

In 1978, the Green Beret Platoon received an official parade position, The New York Times reported.

The beret tradition was curtailed in 2005 in order to appropriately honor the uniform. The decision lasted a decade, and the green knit caps were again allowed in 2015.

The parade enlists 8,500 city and state police,

Credit: AFP-Getty Images / Timothy A. Clary

18,900 help keep the peace -- and the streets clean

The parade enlists 8,500 city and state police, plus an additional 2,000 from out of state and international units; including the Garda police from Ireland. That's in addition to 7,500 firefighters, 500 emergency medical technicians, 300 sanitation workers, who march, and another 100 who clean up, Pat Smith said.

Well, almost entirely. The office manager for the

Credit: AFP-Getty Images / Timothy A. Clary

The parade is run entirely by volunteers

Well, almost entirely. The office manager for the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade gets paid, according to Reilly Dundon, chairman of formation for the parade. The volunteers are mostly Irish-born or Americans of Irish descent who come from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Smith said that the organization procured 200 volunteers for the 2016 parade.

Mitchell will be following in the footsteps of

Credit: Getty Images / Alberto E. Rodriguez

The grand marshal is former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell

Mitchell will be following in the footsteps of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who took on the role last year. Mitchell is considered "a giant among men" by Dundon as a result of his influential peacemaking efforts and the positions he has maintained, from U.S. senator to federal judge to U.S. Attorney for Maine. He is perhaps best known for deliberating on the Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland in 1998, ending years of conflict.

This is an especially historic year for the

Credit: Flickr / Roberto Taddeo

2016 is Ireland's centennial

This is an especially historic year for the St. Patrick's Day parade, as 2016 sees Ireland celebrating 100 years of being an established Irish Republic, independent of the United Kingdom. The independence came as a result of the Easter Rising on April 24, 1916.

One of the flags that flew over the General Post Office in 1916 will be on display at the St. Patrick's Day Parade Foundation dinner the night before the parade, Smith said.

Barbara Jones, Consul General of Ireland, told amNewYork that the parade, "really has a great historical dimension to it this year." The consulate marches in the parade annually, but this year, she said, Irish defense forces, the Irish peace service and representatives of the Irish government, herself included, will be much higher in the march in honor of the centenary. "It's a happy, happy occasion," Jones said.

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