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) http://www.amny.com/secrets-of-new-york/secrets-of-the-st-patrick-s-day-parade-in-nyc-1.11403207 The inaugural St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City was held on March 17, 1762. https://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.11508457.1457893907!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/display_600/image.jpg culture Secrets of the St. Patrick's Day parade in NYC 2 W. 44th St., New York, NY 10036 By Diana Colapietro and Meghan Giannotta Updated March 15, 2019 9:16 AM New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade makes its way along Fifth Avenue for the 257th time on March 16, placing it among the oldest parades in the country. And with nearly 150,000 people turning out to march and more than 2 million to watch annually, it has the most participants of any St. Pat's 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. This year's parade can be viewed along Fifth Avenue from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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. Credit: Getty Images/Theo Wargo 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, who has led the parade for nearly three decades, said that 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. Credit: Getty Images / Mario Tama The largest — and quietest — parade to date The 2002 event was dedicated to the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It ended up being the largest parade to date, with about 300,000 marchers and nearly three million spectators, according to the organizers. The parade included a moment of silence for the victims that lasted nearly two minutes. Credit: Getty Images/Stephanie Keith 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 help keep the line green tradition alive, said Pat Smith, spokesman for the parade. Credit: Getty Images/Nicholas Hunt The parade is typically held March 17 The parade is held annually on March 17, but when the holiday falls on a Sunday, as it is this year, organizers choose to move the event to the Saturday prior. It's not held on Sundays due to religious observance. 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. Credit: Getty Images/Michael Nagle A private military train 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 "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. 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. Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer You can't rain on this parade The Irish holiday may be days away from the official start of the spring season, but paradegoers can find themselves battling the harsh winter elements. Crews were scrambling to remove snow from the sidewalks along the parade route after a storm hit the city on March 14, 2017. But organizers say they're not afraid of a little rain or snow. According to the organizers, the event has not been canceled due to weather-related issues. "The parade has marched in a variety of meteorologic conditions that have included various examples of inclemency," the website explains. 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. 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. Previous Secret Next Secret Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.