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Big Red pride -- and Gov. Paterson -- pump up Sy Katz parade in the Big Apple

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Susan S. Lang

Neither a rainy forecast, a wedding at St. Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue, nor even a 17-7 loss against the Columbia Lions, dampened the Big Red spirit as the biennial Seymour "Sy" Katz '31 parade made its way through midtown Manhattan in the early evening of Nov. 15.

It may have helped that the only established Ivy League parade in New York City was itself being honored with a proclamation and an esteemed grand marshal.

Earlier, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had declared Nov. 15 Sy Katz Day, and the parade was led by New York governor, and parade grand marshal, David A. Paterson, whose position puts him on Cornell's Board of Trustees. Starting at 5 p.m., Paterson led the parade from St. Patrick's, past hundreds of carnelian-clad, kazoo-toting Cornellians, and amid Secret Service agents and curious tourists, to the Cornell Club on E. 44th Street.

"Today, for the first time, I rooted for my alma mater to lose, and they won," said Paterson, who graduated from Columbia in 1977, but pledged allegiance to the Big Red.

"Cornell has done great things for the state of New York. It is responsible for bringing in over $3.5 billion in grants and funding, and over 36,000 jobs between its campus in Ithaca and the medical college in New York City," he said.

Paterson had agreed to lead the parade three months earlier when Bob Katz '69, Sy's son, who is also a trustee, approached him at an August meeting. After speaking to the crowd, Katz named Paterson an honorary member of the band with a band hat with "Guv" taped on the top. "Columbia never gave me anything," quipped Paterson.

The parade, in its 18th or 19th appearance according to Bob Katz, ("It depends whether you consider the first parade in 1972 an unlawful assembly," he said) was founded by Sy Katz to celebrate the Big Red Marching Band. With a six-block route, it is considered New York City's longest-running, shortest parade. The brevity of the parade didn't deter a strong alumni showing, though.

By 5 p.m. Cornellians packed the steps of St. Patrick's to meet the band, cheerleaders, color guard and at least one baton twirler.

"When we arrived, they told us there was a wedding in St. Patrick's and to keep it down," said band leader Tom Seery '09. "[But] this is one of the highlights of being in the marching band. To see Cornellians from 23 to 107 come together singing the alma mater is incredible."

Paterson was joined by marshals Susan H. Murphy '74, vice president for student and academic services; Bill Vanneman '31, Sy's classmate and dear friend; and Faith "Happy" Reichert '25, who was celebrating her 107th birthday.

The band played two of its closing songs in their honor: "Happy Birthday to You" for Reichert, and the Alma Mater for Vanneman and "the great Cornell class of 1931."

The New York City parade day permit was obtained by Penny Skitol Haitkin '65; Michael Caplan '66, owner of Berkeley Caterers, provided lunch for 175 band members and cheerleaders; Alice Katz Berglas '66, Sy Katz's daughter and Cornell Council member, brought her father's style of merriment to the music, including kazoos, as well as lightsticks, stickers and programs for the marchers; and the Cornell Club provided an evening of post-parade hoopla.

Amanda Angel '03 is a freelance writer in New York City.