Thousands braved the cold and gathered in the downtown core Sunday for the 195th St. Patrick’s Day parade, organized by the United Irish Societies of Montreal (UISM).
It’s one of the longest running parades in North America, and one of the biggest.
Parade director Patty McCann said one of the reasons the event draws such a crowd is because it embraces Montreal’s multicultural heritage.
“I just think it’s so inclusive … this year we have the Jamaican association coming in, last year we had people from Peru, so it’s a multicultural parade,” she said. “I love the fact that everyone just thinks the Irish parade is one of Montreal’s greatest events.”
Despite being steeped in tradition, there was a major change this year.
Rather than make its way along Ste-Catherine Street, the parade kicked off at noon at the corner of City Councillors Street and De Maisonneuve Boulevard.
Major construction projects in and around the city this weekend made it difficult to get around.
To guarantee a good spot on the brand new parade route, organizers and city officials recommended revellers make their way downtown using public transit.
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Opening this year’s parade was Grand Marshal Elizabeth Quinn.
It is only the second time in parade history that a woman has been chosen to lead the way.
IN PHOTOS: Montreal St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2018
Quinn has been an active member of the United Irish Societies of Montreal for 30 years, even serving a two-year-stint as president, but despite her involvement, the news came as a complete surprise.
“When I was given this honour, I was shocked first and foremost,” she told Global News. “I just didn’t expect that and so I was thrilled.”
Quinn said she’s used to working behind the scenes, but admits it’s been fun taking on a new role.
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Following close behind Quinn in Sunday’s parade was chief reviewing officer Ronnie James, who was equally thrilled to have been bestowed with such an honour.
“As Elizabeth said, working behind the scenes has been my life so to be chosen by my peers to do this job has just been phenomenal,” he said.
For those not in the know, the chief reviewing officer is tasked with choosing a winning float — and for James, it’s all about showing great enthusiasm.
“I think you’re looking for people having a great time out there and really encouraging the crowd,” he said. “I like when people start getting the crowd involved in the parade, that’s one of my favourite things.”
While Sunday’s parade brings to a close a month of Irish celebrations, the work is far from over.
“We start preparing as soon as this parade is over for next year,” McCann said, adding that it takes a team of devoted volunteers to bring it all together.