Montreal St. Patrick's Day parade returns in full force

Crowds cheered at the 198th edition of the Montreal St. Patrick's Day parade.  (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Crowds cheered at the 198th edition of the Montreal St. Patrick's Day parade. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)

After several years of pandemic disruptions, the Montreal St. Patrick's Day parade ran at full-scale Sunday.

Thousands of green-clad parade-goers gathered at noon at the corner of Ste-Catherine Street West and Fort Street to watch dancers, musicians and floats go by.

"We're back to what we were in 2019 so we're really, really excited," said Lauren Tracey, vice-president of advertising and public relations for the United Irish Societies of Montreal.

The festivities stretched for about two kilometres and ended at Dorchester Square and Peel Street.

The United Irish Societies of Montreal cancelled the parade in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the event didn't showcase floats because it was "very hard to plan," Tracey said, adding that the 2022 edition was scaled down from about 4,000 people to 500.

"We just had a walking parade with the Irish community," she said. "It was really nice to get everyone back but obviously it's even better to have everyone back at this scale and have all the floats back and dancers."

She says 77 groups marched Sunday in the parade's 198th edition.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Victor Boyle has been marching in the parade since 2002. The president of the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation, Boyle said the event is a way for the Irish community to share and appreciate their culture.

"These banners and the floats, it brings home what it's like to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day," he said.

For Ingrid Ghenter, it was a chance to experience the ambiance, the music and the spirit of Montreal's Irish community for the first time.

"I've never seen [the parade] in my life," said the Montrealer. "I know it's a big event in Montreal … I'm excited."

Hit hard by the pandemic, downtown establishment owners say the return of the parade in full force is not only great for the community, but for business as well.

"This weekend's been great," said Rod Applebee, general manager of Hurley's Irish pub. He said the lineup on Friday night stretched down the block.

"It's felt good in the last year. You can see it slowly building and getting busier and busier and people are just feeling better," he said.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Verdun Coun. Sterling Downey, who walked in the parade, said the event is a tradition that defines the Montreal spirit.

"Being out in the community, everyone's celebrating together on the streets, bringing all the festivities back — this is what it is," he said.

Planning is already underway for the 200th edition of the parade in 2025, Downey said, adding it will be legendary.

"It's going to leave every other city green with envy," he said.