2016 Défilé de la Saint-Patrick an “ode to spring”

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Photo: Jay Ouellet

The Défilé de la Saint-Patrick made its way into Old Quebec City through Porte Saint-Louis led by a smiling Mayor Régis Labeaume (front and centre), who was closely followed by the City of New York Police Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums. The new, extended parade route was lined with an estimated 60,000 people. It was a great day for the Irish! (More parade photos can be seen on pages 4-5)

The seventh annual Défilé de la Saint-Patrick paraded into Old Quebec City on Saturday, March 19, charming the thousands of residents and visitors who crowded the sidewalks all the way from Avenue Cartier to Quebec City Hall and Place d’Youville. The parade also ushered in spring, which officially began the next day, March 20, at 12:30 a.m. EDT. 

St. Patrick himself must have been smiling down upon all the participants, over 900 strong this year, as they marched, walked, danced and frisked along Avenue Cartier and down Grande Allée, Rue Saint-Louis and Rue Saint-Jean under cloudless skies. It was, however, a tad nippy for the kilt-clad members of the marching bands and the sports groups sporting shorts.

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume and Deputy Mayor Michelle Morin-Doyle sported their St. Patrick’s High School “Fighting Irish” football jackets as they led the parade accompanied this year for the first time by Premier Philippe Couillard. 

Also new to Quebec City’s St. Patrick’s parade this year is a pipes and drums band from Toronto. James Donovan, who is on the parade’s organizing committee and who was the 2013 Grand Marshall, has a son named Jim, who lives in Toronto. Jim saw his neighbour Jeff Penfound emerging from his house one day wearing a kilt and learned he was the leader of the Toronto Fire Services Pipes and Drums. Jim told Penfound, “We need a pipe band in Quebec City for the St. Patrick’s parade, because the Boston band is unable to attend this year.” Penfound was able to put together a group and the rest is history. “It’s a beautiful city, a great opportunity to come and we’ve been treated so well,” said Penfound. “They even put us up at the Château Frontenac.” 

Stephen Burke, president of the parade committee said, “This is a big year and the sunshine is a plus. It’s a parade that is a kind of ‘ode to spring.’ This year, besides the Chicago Police Department and New York Police Department pipes and drums, we have a pipe band from the Toronto Fire Services. There are some 100 volunteers, 960 participants, 30 family groups, and several other local bands. It’s a lot of work, but it is worth all the effort. It’s a costly event, but the City contributes a lot financially and provides security. And this year, for the first time, Premier Philippe Couillard is walking with us. It’s a family-oriented parade and everybody wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Many people have told us this is the nicest parade Quebec City has all year.” 

Besides all the pipes and drums, there were dance groups – Les Tourbillons and the Shannon Irish Dancers, groups from the Morrin Centre, Jeffery Hale–Saint Brigid’s, Voice of English-speaking Quebec, St. Patrick’s Parish, Irish Heritage Quebec, the Quebec Art Company and many family groups and local businesses.

Spring is definitely in the air!