Canada

St. Patrick's Day Parades bring colour (mostly green) to North American cities

Large crowds in festive attire lined the streets of Toronto and Vancouver on Sunday for annual St. Patrick's Day festivities, while in Boston organizers lifted a longtime ban on lesbian, gay and transgender (LGBT) organizations joining the annual Irish-American march.

Gay and lesbian groups were welcomed in Boston's parades by organizers after decades of opposition

Dozens of floats moved along Toronto's downtown streets on Sunday for the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade.

Retiring Toronto police Chief Bill Blair served as the grand marshal of this year's parade.

Earlier in the day, the chief was among dozens of guests invited to a St. Patrick's Day breakfast, which was also attended by Mayor John Tory, as well as Ray Bassett, the Irish ambassador to Canada, and Charles Flanagan, the Irish minister of foreign affairs.

Tory tweeted several photos from the event, all of which featured the mayor wearing a lime green blazer and a darker green tie.

The Toronto St. Patrick's Day Parade is counted among the top St. Patrick's Day celebrations in North America with approximately 500,000 people who line the parade route each year.

Vancouver

In Vancouver, the 11th annual St. Patrick's Day parade took to the streets on Sunday. 

Festival organizers estimated crowds exceeding 200,000 to line the route to cheer on the more than 2,000 parade participants.

Expected to march were award-winning pipe and drum 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, and local businesses.

Boston

Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade has made history as two gay and lesbian groups were welcomed by the organizers after decades of opposition.

Gay military veterans group OutVets and gay rights group Boston Pride joined Sunday's parade at the invitation of the sponsoring South Boston Allied War Veterans Council.

Twenty years ago, parade organizers won a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding their right to invite or exclude marchers. 

Mayor Marty Walsh marched this year, ending a two-decade mayoral boycott over the gay rights issue. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker also marched, along with first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, a former Marine and Iraq War veteran.

Some Roman Catholic groups including the Knights of Columbus said they wouldn't participate because they felt the parade had been politicized. 

New York

New York firefighters climbed into the ring at Madison Square Garden on Saturday to battle Irish cops in a charity boxing event celebrating the historical ties between Ireland and the city's first responders.

The bouts, scheduled on the weekend before St. Patrick's Day, pitted amateur boxers from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) against Irish national police pugilists from the Garda Soichana Boxing Club.

"If history repeats itself, it will be one hell of a donnybrook," said Bobby McGuire, who heads the New York team known as FDNY Bravest Boxing. "The Irish are lovely lads, but very tough."

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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