"I'm the fourth woman to be chosen as grand marshal," she said. "This is a great honor," she said.
The parade was shorter this year, starting at 44th Street and marching past St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Up to 2 million spectators awash in green lined up along Fifth Avenue for the city's 250th such celebration on a balmy day previewing spring.
Among the 200,000 marchers was Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had gotten a less-than-warm welcome at a St. Patrick's Day parade in Queens earlier this month. Some parade-goers were angry about the mayor's joke last month that he usually saw "people that are totally inebriated" at the American Irish Historical Society in Manhattan. Bloomberg apologized shortly after making the comment.
Asked about the matter again before Thursday's parade, Bloomberg said, "I told a joke some people didn't find funny. But the reception I got so far puts a smile on my face."
Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who greeted the mayor in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, waved off a question about whether the joke had offended him.
"On a day like this, forget it," he said.
One spectator couldn't.
"Bloomberg, you're a drunk," read a sign held up by Dennis Dunn of suburban Yonkers, who said that his Irish-American family "was not amused" by the mayor's original comment.
But most greeted the mayor with the glee that usually accompanies the parade, shouting out his name and shaking his hand when he broke away from the marching column and approached crowds behind police barricades.
Michelle Kelly, visiting from Dublin with her husband, Eamon, had tufts of green artificial hair on her head as she waved an Irish flag.
"It's brilliant," she said. "I've never seen anything like this, not even in Dublin. There are so many different cultures together here - just for the Irish."
At least one person was arrested at the start of the parade when a fight broke out. A police spokeswoman had no immediate information on arrests.
But most of the festivities were as sunny as the brilliant weather, with temperatures in the 60s.
"I love the bands - especially the drummers, who never stop walking or playing," said Oliver Newton, 11, of Floral Park on New York's Long Island.
And the bands love the parade! High schoolers from Humanities and the Arts Campus Magnet School in St. Albans prepped for their big moment on 5th Avenue.
"It's a great experience to come out and play music and have a great time. That's basically what it's all about. Having a good time," Dorian Welters of Queens said.
You wouldn't find any objections here!