By Mike Dougherty

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a great day for the Irish…and the “would-be” Irish on Sunday as thousands packed the Ben Franklin Parkway for Philadelphia’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

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The first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Philadelphia was in 1771.  More than 240 years since, there have been many days like this one. More than 16,000 people marched in the parade; tens of thousands more watched from the streets and braved the cold, wearing green to celebrate their Irish heritage. Parade organizer, Michael Bradley said the Irish have long-held a prominent role in Philadelphia culture.

“My grandparents all came from Ireland,” he said. “I think that is a big thing for me and I think today people march not with their feet, but with their heart, march in honor of someone.”

This year’s grand marshall was former Philadelphia Eagles General Manager Jim Murray. He said this is a tremendous honor and can’t think of anywhere he rather be.

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“This is a celebration, this is the best of Philly,” Murray said. “This is what it is all about and it’s not about me, it’s about our grandparents, our parents, and all the unsung heroes, so for me, for the Eagles, for the neighborhood.”

Murray said so many people come out to events like this because so many people can relate to the Irish, they can make you laugh and make you cry.

“It’s genuine and real and authentic,” he said. “And I think when you look at the history of this city and all the things that happened at City Hall, you’re going to find a lot of Irish guys.”

This year’s parade theme was “Bless the Contribution of Irish Americans To Our Country.”

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