Despite grey skies, Irish green warms downtown Toronto

The luck of the Irish prevailed Sunday as the morning rain ceased just in time for the 23rd annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Toronto.

Estimates of up to 100,000 people of all ages lined the streets in customary green attire to witness the more than 50 attractions go by. Almost 3000 participants joined the parade, including marching bands, Irish dancers, Irish athletic associations and various floats.

The parade route started at St. George Street, went east on Bloor Street to Yonge Street, south to Queen Street and then West to University Avenue. It took place from 12 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.

Pat Canavan, chair of the parade society thought the morning rain and cold weather may have scared a few people off but felt pleased by the turn out. For him, the annual parade represents a legacy.

“It’s keeping one’s culture alive and when my own children and grandchildren are out there helping it means that you’re keeping the tradition alive,” he said.

Canavan took part in the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Toronto in 1988 as president of the County Tyrone Association and has participated ever since. So have his children.

Cathy Canavan danced at the Grand Marshal’s Ball the first time it took place. Now she encourages other young dancers to take part and represent the Gilchrist-Canavan School of Irish Dance, which she co-founded.

“I think the hard part is to get the young people involved and it’s going to have to start sooner because the older generations are getting older,” she said. “It’s time for the younger generations whether they’re first or second generation Canadian or Irish to step in and start helping out.”

Mississauga mayor, Hazel McCallion had taken part in the parade before but felt honoured that this year the St. Patrick’s Parade Society of Toronto chose her as the Grand Marshal. McCallion found the youthful participants particularly inspiring.

“You know what impressed me today was the young people, the kids that were on the float,” she said. “You want to retain your culture? Keep it with the kids folks.”

Pat Canavan said that people seemed to be having a great time and that is what it is all about.

“All in all it was a great day,” he said. “Today, of course, is only a practice day for Wednesday, which is really St. Patrick’s Day.”