Showstopper

Sun and smiles wash over St. Patrick’s Day parade

With traditional Irish music playing in the background, Irish eyes were smiling in Toronto on Sunday.

The 2008 St. Patrick’s Day Parade was a sea of green on a sunny afternoon, but there was one float that was happy that their ship had come in. The County Antrim entry was the showstopper as John McCormick captained the Titanic replica.

“It took eight guys and two weeks to build it,” McCormick said of the reproduction. “It was a labour of love,” he said.

The ship towered 20 feet over the street and drew the eyes of the thousands of parade onlookers like a magnet. The sheer size of the production demonstrated how important building the largest passenger ship was to these Irish natives.

“Since we are from Belfast, we wanted to show how big Belfast does it. So what better way than to build the Titanic,” McCormick said. “When she was originally built in 1912, the whole city was involved. It didn’t matter what background you came from, everyone from the city helped with the construction.”

The parade has evolved over the years, and Sunday was the 21st edition of the parade. The most common thread between parade volunteers was that it reminds them of their roots.

Irish Smiles: Sinead Curran, 4, and Catherine Curran of Hamilton are all smiles as they participate in the Toronto St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Irish Smiles: Sinead Curran, 4, and Catherine Curran of Hamilton are all smiles as they participate in the Toronto St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (Bryden Suits)

“Every year it feels like going home for a day,” McCormick said. “It’s nice to see the familiar faces and do a bit of ragging (poking fun of) your mates,” he said.

Family pride is becoming more and more evident as the next generation of parade volunteers is playing a larger role in the planning and execution of the day. Kerry native, Catherine Curran, is happy she’s passing the tradition of the parade on to her grandchildren.

“I have fond memories from the parade over the past 21 years,” Curran said. “But I love the fact that my grandchildren are involved now. Each year it seems that more and more kids are getting involved, which is great,” she said.

The parade has grown with more and more entries since it began in 1986, with friendly competition for who has the best float.

“The floats seem to be getting bigger and better each year,” McCormick said. “When it started there was only about 10 floats now there (are) almost 40, with bragging rights for the year,” he said.

Everyone in the crowd had their favorites, but it was no surprise who Marie Campbell enjoyed most.

“My favorite has always been the pipe band,” Campbell said. “I love the heritage of the day, because I’m Irish you know.”