Shamrocks, four leaf clovers and bagpipes: St. Patrick’s Day in Vancouver

The plaid is a sure sign of spring in British Columbia.

Festival du Bois

Starting this weekend, the French Canadian community in the Lower Mainland is the first to host a festival that has been going strong for 40 years.  The Festival du Bois takes place the March  5 weekend in Coquitlam, and is the kick-off event of the 2016 festival year. There’ll be lots of great French Canadian entertainment taking place under the tents at MacKin Park in Coquitlam, although curiously, one of the former


headliners at the festival, Acadian Lennie Gallant of PEI is performing at Vancouver ‘s Rogue Folk Club that weekend. The strange programming aside, the days are getting a big longer, the sun warmer and despite two weekends of grey skies and rain, the Festival du Bois is a clear indication spring is on its way – and so is St. Patrick’s Day.

March 17 is one of the biggest celebrations in the region. However, unlike Festivals that have organized events, marquis tents, performance stages and workshops, St. Patrick’s is a mainly  indoor pub celebration of the patron saint of Ireland.  And with a large and growing larger Irish ex-pat community in Vancouver, the pubs and bars will be ringing out with Irish voices and the sound of Irish and Celtic music.  As a young bagpiper in Halifax in the 1990’s, it was one of the busiest days of the year on Argyle Street and surrounding area. In Newfoundland, it’s a provincial holiday and folks start lining up for pubs on George’s Street long before the doors open (and stay open until very late.)

The Vancouver Celtic Festival is a great place to start off the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The event is mostly an indoor, pub and venue-oriented event, with Irish and Celtic bands aplenty.  The biggest event is the St. Patrick’s Day parade in down town Vancouver on Sunday, March 13. It’s a great event, well organized and run by a core of volunteers led by Bernadette Jahn, who I had the great pleasure of working with last year on the festival committee. Bagpipers, pipe bands, Celtic musicians, Scottish and Irish dancers, acrobats, stilt walkers, vintage cars, the Vancouver police motorcycle drill team and pipe band, fire and police dogs, mounted horse drill teams, multi-cultural organizations and performers, local businesses, distinguished guests, and lots more. Throughout the week and leading up to St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday, there will be plenty of great music, including Sharon Shannon, the Irish Rovers and Cape Breton fiddler Mhari Rankin.

There’ll also be lots of piping and dancing, with a number of down town pubs hosting sessions with pipers, Irish dancers and singers. Check out the Vancouver Celtic Fest program for more details.

The only downside to all the fun and festivities of St. Patrick’s is that this year, it’s on Thursday. For many, that will spell trouble the next day at work. But take heart – if you survive this year, you can look forward to a Friday night celebration in 2017, and a Saturday celebration in 2018 that will no doubt be memorable.



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