After two years of subdued celebrations, St. Patrick’s Day parties in Waterloo made a major comeback on Thursday.

In anticipation of large crowds gathering on Ezra Avenue – the site of unsanctioned student parties during pre-pandemic St. Patrick's Days – the City of Waterloo installed fencing along the road on Monday.

On Thursday, students moved the party a block away to Marshall Street.

Officials haven't provided an estimated crowd size, but at its peak there appeared to be thousands of partiers in the area.

“They closed off Ezra so we just came over here,” one said.

Officials with Grand River Hospital said their emergency department saw between 20 and 30 people on Thursday because of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Around 70 per cent were treated for intoxication or injury due to intoxication, a spokesperson said.

St. pats

HOW THE DAY UNFOLDED

Thursday morning started off quiet with groups of students walking from party to party, but by early afternoon, the festivities were spilling out onto street as crowds continued to swell.

Around 1 p.m. police closed Marshall Street from Regina Street to King Street. Regina Street was also closed between Elgin and Lodge Street.

"It's kind of liberating, in a way, to know that we're getting back to the student lifestyle," one person taking part in festivities said.

There was also a heavy police presence in the area. In a tweet, Waterloo regional police encouraged those partying to gather in smaller groups, at licensed establishments or at home.

Officers handed out some tickets, but said there hadn't been any major incidents during the day on Thursday.

Streets had started to clear around 3 p.m., but it was anticipated students could return again on Thursday night.

Partiers in Waterloo

Some people in the area weren't pleased to see the partying.

"I think this is disgusting," one woman said. "People are in their cars, they've got appointments. All the kids are all over the road and they're charging for the drinks. They knew this was going to happen, get them the hell out of the way so we can get through."

Regional police posted a message from Chief Bryan Larkin Thursday morning saying “they will continue to work closely with our community and emergency service partners to ensure complete and extensive operational plan is in place throughout the next 24 hours.”

PARTY MOVES TO UPTOWN BARS

By Thursday evening, the party had shifted to Uptown Waterloo 

“You can see the amount of people that are enjoying themselves,” said Gabriel Cojocariu, owner of The Falls Road from inside his packed pub. “They're loving being here. They're missing their friends, they're missing seeing everybody. Sharing a pint and the experience.”

Staff at the Duke of Wellington say they've had the day circled on their calendar ever since moving to their new location on King Street.

"The luck of the Irish I guess?" said general manager Terry Meyer. "Lucky to be Irish for a day."

At Kentucky Bourbon & BBQ, one customer was happy to celebrate her heritage.

"It's actually really reminding me of Ireland," she said. "I'm from Dublin and it's also very messy on St. Patrick's Day."

Uptown Waterloo made a map of pubs and restaurants open for St. Patrick's Day:

WORD FROM UNIVERSITIES

The University of Waterloo sent out a tweet Thursday morning reminding students to watch out for each other, encouraging them to eat and drink with friends on campus or a local pub or restaurant.

Wilfrid Laurier University also tweeted, saying they “discourage unsanctioned street gatherings,” adding “they strongly encourage students to make smart choices and engage in safe and respectful behaviors.”