By Verena Dobnik, Photos By Tom Callan
There was a sea of white and blue along New York's Fifth Avenue on Sunday for the Israel Day Parade, which this year once again included former congressman Anthony Weiner.
More than 30,000 marchers, with 17 bands and 30 floats, moved up the avenue, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn — Weiner's competitor in the race for mayor.
The Democrat, who tweeted himself out of his congressional job with a photo of his bulging underpants, march farther behind. He had been absent from the annual parade since 2010.
Weiner said he was thrilled to be back.
"It's great, it feels great, this is home to me," Weiner said, adding, "I'm kind of like a thoroughbred in a stable, ready to hit the starting line."
He was wildly cheered and occasionally booed along the parade route.
One spectator, Paul Lebowitz, said Weiner "has no right to be here; he doesn't represent New York, he's just a political hack."
But at other points on the route, young women asked to be photographed with the mayoral candidate.
This year's theme was "Picture Israel: The Art And Craft," with marchers carrying paintings, collages, and tapestries to show the diversity of Israel and its people.
Security was tight for the event that filled Fifth Avenue from 57th Street to 74th Street. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly watched over the lineup, and helicopters hovered overhead.
"Obviously, we have to factor in what happened in Boston," the commissioner said, referring to the April 15 double bombing at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 260.
Kelly said the NYPD brought in "additional resources" for Sunday's parade, including more bomb-sniffing dogs and security cameras.
On Sunday evening, the Empire State Building planned to beam the Israeli colors to celebrate the 1948 creation of the Jewish state.
Also later Sunday, Israel's national soccer team was scheduled to play the team from Honduras in Queens.
The New York metropolitan area is home to the largest Jewish population outside Israel, and "perhaps more than any other city on earth, we're truly aware of the challenges facing Israel," said Weiner, who wore blue slacks and a white top.