St. Patrick's Day? This Quebec town celebrates St. Patrick's month

It's never too early to start celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Richmond, Que., where banquets, poetry and a parade draw thousands of visitors.

Eastern Townships town of 3,000 triples its population on parade day, thanks to visitors

The Richmond’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, seen here in 2017, will include more than 200 horses this year. ( Richmond St. Patrick's Society/richmondstpats.org)

You'd be forgiven for thinking that St. Patrick's Day is only meant to be celebrated on March 17 — after all, the word "day" is in the title. 

However, residents of Richmond, in Quebec's Eastern Townships, have a different take on it. 

Richmond's celebrations stretch over three weekends, which include banquets, music, poetry and the highlight of the month: The parade.

"In Quebec, I think there's about five parades and we're the second biggest one," said Erika Lockwood, president of the Richmond St. Patrick's Society, in an interview on CBC's All in a Weekend.

The event has been known to temporarily triple the town's population of 3,000, as visitors pour in from across the region. 

"I think local businesses, when they started participating in it, it grew and it grew," said Lockwood, who also runs a local pub. 

Organizers hire marching bands from the town, and bring in animals from the country. 

"We have over 200 horses that are also included in our parade," she said.

Richmond’s parade has grown from the early years into an event that draws thousands of people. ( Richmond St. Patrick's Society/richmondstpats.org)

Lockwood said organizers even get a bit of help from "leprechauns" — a group of revellers who sneak out in the wee hours before the parade, to paint a green line on the streets along the parade route.

She said the celebrations take months of planning, usually starting in October.

"Winter's long for everyone in Quebec. It's like the first spring party. It wakes everyone up and everyone looks forward to it and there's a lot of energy. It's a great atmosphere," she said.

200 years of Irish residents

While the parade is in its 141st year, the town's Irish roots date back more than 200 years, according to the book Irish Settlement and National Identity in the Lower St. Francis Valley, written by Peter Southam, a retired history professor from University of Sherbrooke. 

The book is published by the Richmond St. Patrick's Society.

Lockwood said most people in Richmond tend to claim some Irish ancestry — particularly when March rolls around. 

A crowd gathers for the Richmond St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1908. This year marks the 141st edition of the parade. ( Richmond St. Patrick's Society/richmondstpats.org)

But even for those without an Irish branch to the family tree, it's an occasion to celebrate and bring everyone in the bilingual community together, said Lockwood.

For example, one event, a Green Bingo, brings together seniors from both anglophone and francophone seniors' homes.

According to Statistics Canada, about 2,200 people list French as their mother tongue in the city, while 745 list English.

With files from CBC Montreal's All in a Weekend