06/25/2013 04:00 EDT | Updated 08/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Parade and park party highlight Fete nationale in Quebec

MONTREAL - A day of sweltering heat gave way to torrential rain as thousands of people gathered in a Montreal park to mark Quebec’s Fete nationale.

A parade featuring huge marionettes depicting Quebec's past wound its way along Sherbrooke St. to Maisonneuve Park in the city’s east end.

A downpour just before 6 p.m. scattered parade-goers, but they later trickled back for festivities in the park headlined by Quebec singer Diane Dufresne.

Premier Pauline Marois was joined by several members of her cabinet as she chatted with people at the start of the parade.

Marois said Fete nationale, once known as St. Jean Baptiste Day, is a chance to celebrate Quebec’s extraordinary society trying to find its place in the world.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper marked the holiday in the Lac-Saint-Jean. In addition to touting his government’s record and Quebec's natural resources, Harper said the ”great nation of Quebec” holds a crucial place within Canada.