NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A sea of green flooded Fifth Avenue as spectators and marchers took to the streets for the country’s largest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade — which was just a wee bit smaller this year.

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The 250th annual parade stepped off Thursday morning on Fifth Avenue at 44th Street, but thanks to budget cuts to reduce police costs, the parade will end at East 79th Street instead of East 86th.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg marched with best-selling mystery author Mary Higgins Clark — this year’s grand marshal — and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

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About 200,000 marchers and up to 2 million spectators enjoyed the sunny March day with sunshine with temperatures in the low 60s.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan and his predecessor Cardinal Edward Egan greeted the mayor in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 50th Street.

Nearly 150 bands marched the green line past St. Patrick’s, a tribute to the heritage that Irish Americans hold so dear.

“I’m first generation Irish, my parents came from Cavern, Ireland, and I’m very proud to be Irish,” Yonkers resident Carol Dunne told CBS 2’s Demetra Ganias.

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Earlier this month, Bloomberg got a less than warm welcome at a St. Patricks’ Day parade in Queens. 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.”

Dolan waved off a question about whether the mayor’s joke had offended him.

“On a day like this, forget it,” he said.

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