Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day parade draws thousands

Noreen Shallow has been attending Toronto’s St. Patrick’s Day parade for the past 23 years, ever since immigrating here from Ireland.

For Shallow, an Oakville resident who along with her husband and three kids braved Sunday’s bitter cold to take in this year’s parade, the annual celebration marks just as much the long-standing traditions of her homeland as it does the chance to dance, wear green clothing, sport leprechaun hats, and drink green beer.

“I just love the celebration ... (and) the whole tradition,” said Shallow, 55, who on Sunday wore a green jacket, had slapped temporary shamrock tattoos on her cheeks, and donned a large Dr. Seuss-style hat bearing the colours of the Irish flag. “You have to remember the (tradition behind the occasion).”

Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day is the annual tribute to a fifth-century cleric who spread Christianity throughout Ireland. But today, it’s mostly an international celebration based largely on parades and tipping a pint at the pub.

And Sunday’s parade, filled with the usual of marching bands, traditional dancers and green as far as the eye could see, also featured Toronto’s embattled and controversial mayor.

Wearing a suit but without a winter coat, Rob Ford, still in the maw of a crack cocaine scandal and now gunning for his second term in office, power-walked his way past Yonge-Dundas Square, all the way throwing green-bead necklaces to the spectators lining Yonge St.

Some cheered. Some laughed. Some jeered.

Ford, who’s had a crusty relationship with the media since the scandal broke last May, refused to acknowledge questions posed to him by a Toronto Sun reporter covering the event.

Ford’s ever-present brother, Councillor Doug Ford, worked the other side of Yonge.

“It’s beautiful, people are enjoying themselves, and everyone is Irish today,” said Councillor Ford as he greeted spectators.

While it was not immediately known how many people turned out for this year’s parade, last year’s attracted as many as 500,000 spectators, according to event organizers at the time.
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