An emerald hue twinkled in the Big Apple on Wednesday as revelers marked St. Patrick's Day with green T-shirts, green hats and even green beer.
The centerpiece was a parade featuring Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as the grand marshal and participants including the "Fighting 69th," a New York National Guard unit whose history stretches to the U.S. Civil War when immigrants made up the so-called "Irish Brigade" of the Union Army.
Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral before the start of the parade at 11 a.m.
With winter giving way to sunshine and balmy temperatures in the 60s, a large turnout was expected as the parade moves up 5th Ave. In Rockefeller Plaza outside NBC's "Today Show" studios, dancers from the Irish musical River Dance performed-- the lead performers wearing gleaming green shirts.
It will be the last major parade in the city before new police rules take effect, trimming routes 25 percent and keeping them less than five hours.
Representatives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups were not allowed to participate in the 249th march -- at least, not under their own banner.
Members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, who run the nation's biggest St. Patrick's Day celebration, say they may invite whomever they please.
Bloomberg favors inclusion, but still planned to participate.
The day is named after St. Patrick, who introduced Christianity to Ireland about 1,500 years ago and became the country's patron saint.
He was born in Britain to an aristocratic Christian family, according to classics professor Philip Freeman of Luther College in Iowa, who authored the book "St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography.
At 16, Patrick is said to have been kidnapped and sent to then pagan Ireland to tend sheep. He was eventually ordained a priest and spent the rest of his life converting the Irish to Christianity.