By Matthew Curtis
St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner and Centretown is going green. A mayoral proclamation has been delivered, the annual parade has already been held and (of course) pub parties are in the works for Saturday’s March 17 celebration of all things Irish.
Festivities began with Mayor Jim Watson’s March 8 announcement at City Hall kickstarting the ten-day-long Ottawa Irish Festival.
“One of the great things about the timing of these events is that St. Patrick’s Day happening mid-March really shows off that Ottawa is a four-season destination,” said Julia Thomson, a spokesperson for Ottawa Tourism. “It’s great for visitors to know when it’s not necessarily peak tourism season there’s still lots going on.”
Thomson said major attractions this year included the 36th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade organized by the Irish Society of the National Capital Region, and Beau’s St. Patrick’s Party — “a kind of Mecca for St. Patrick’s Day” — on Saturday, March 10.
The parade is always held on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, even when March 17 falls on a Saturday.
“March 17 moves around on different days of the week and logistically it would be difficult to manage,” said Bryan Daly, president of the Irish Society. “Many entertainers make serious money on the 17th and the Irish Society wants to free them up for these opportunities,” he added, explaining why this year’s parade wasn’t scheduled for the 17th itself.
Daly said Irish Week honours Ottawa’s Irish community and its contributions to Canada’s capital because “they say roughly 28 per cent of the National Capital Region has Irish origins.” He said the community’s most significant contribution was the work of labourers in building the Rideau Canal between 1826 and 1832.
The parade started at City Hall, ran along Laurier Avenue and Bank Street through Centretown and the Glebe, and ended at Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park.
Those thirsty from the parade could find relief at Lansdowne, where the Irish Society partnered with Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company for the third annual Beau’s St. Patrick’s Party at Aberdeen Pavilion.
“I think the sense of community that you get really is overwhelming,” said Beau’s CEO and co-founder Steve Beauchesne. “Whether you’re Irish or not, I think the Ottawa spirit really comes to life in our St. Patrick’s Party.”
Partnering with the Irish Society made it an authentic celebration of Irish culture, Beauchesne said, “not a bunch of people wearing green hats and having a beer.”
Other major events leading up to St. Patrick’s Day included a live Celtic music performance and pancake breakfast on March 11 at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts on St. Patrick Street in Lowertown. An Irish Night at the Canadian Tire Centre is also scheduled for March 16, when the Ottawa Senators face the Dallas Stars.
On Saturday, March 17, the traditional St. Patrick’s Day mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Basilica on Kent Street, and at Blessed Sacrament Church in the Glebe a chef-prepared dinner and expert-instructed Irish dance lessons will run from 5:30 to 11 p.m.
Finally, almost every watering hole in Ottawa will be offering the opportunity to imbibe Irish-themed everything before and on March 17.