Entertainment Festivals

Friday 29 August 2014

Fun, laughter and a riot of colour in every city and town

Ralph Riegel and Greg Harkin

Published 18/03/2014 | 01:03

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CORK: Cllr  Catherine Clancy with Grand Marshall Michael Flatley at the St Patrick’s Day Parade by the Lee.
CORK: Cllr Catherine Clancy with Grand Marshall Michael Flatley at the St Patrick’s Day Parade by the Lee.
KILKENNY: Bronagh Smyth (8) with her sisters Aoibheann (12) and Mairead (2) during the St Patrick's Day Parade in Kilkenny city. Photo: Pat Moore.
KILKENNY: Bronagh Smyth (8) with her sisters Aoibheann (12) and Mairead (2) during the St Patrick's Day Parade in Kilkenny city. Photo: Pat Moore.
Many nationalities joins hands to celebrate Galway St Patrick's Parade in Galway. Picture: Hany Marzouk
GALWAY: Many nationalities joins hands to celebrate Galway St Patrick's Parade in Galway. Picture: Hany Marzouk

Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley put his best foot forward as he hailed being Irish on St Patrick's Day as the proudest feeling in the world.

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The dance star was Grand Marshal for Cork's St Patrick's Day parade – just 24 hours after he led out the 130,000-strong London parade with his wife, Niamh, and son, Michael Jnr.

“It's the best feeling in the world being Irish on St Patrick's Day,” he said, clad in a Cork City FC scarf.

“This is a tremendous honour for me. Cork has been so good to me and my family.”

The Chicago-born star knows a thing or two about St Patrick's Day with his native city boasting the second biggest parade in the US.

Over 80,000 people packed Cork city for the parade, which, thanks to glorious spring weather and a lavish programme of street entertainment and artisan food fairs, attracted record numbers.

Lord Mayor Cllr Catherine Clancy (Lab) said the parade was about showcasing all that is great about Irish culture.

It was a similar story in Ireland's National City of Culture where Limerick's parade was attended by over 70,000 people.

The numbers were boosted by the International Band Championship, which had attracted over 1,000 bands to Limerick for the prestigious two-day competition.

The overall award went to the Estonian Defence Forces orchestra.

The parade was led out by the Munster Special Olympians in recognition of the fact Limerick will host the national championships next June.

The Special Olympians included Christine Delaney and Marie Ryan (Lisnagry Special Olympics), John Dunne and Robert O'Donnell (Rehabcare Limerick) and Michael Carr and Andy Coyne (Limerick City Special Olympics Club).

Parade ambassadors were students from Colaiste Chiarain in Croom who carried Ireland's largest tricolour.

In Galway, pirates and sea monsters dominated the parade where the chosen theme was ‘The Sea'. Over 70,000 people attended the hour-long parade where light drizzle failed to spoil the spectacle.

Keeping the Irish cultural theme alive, Galway's Grand Marshal was Claire Greaney, the six-times World Irish Dancing champion.

In Sligo, the town proudly celebrated its status as 2014 European Sports Capital with a record parade entry from local sports clubs.

Brilliant local sprinter, and national champion, Zac Irwin, got proceedings under way in perhaps the fastest start to any St Patrick's Day parade.

Waterford, the first Irish city to declare St Patrick's Day a holiday, had RTE personality Megan Cassidy as its parade grand marshal.

The parade attracted over 50,000 people along its quays route with the ‘Viking Quarter' proving the hub of an exciting street entertainment programme. The highlight of the parade was a giant fire-breathing dragon, which was fought by volunteer Vikings from city drama groups.

Other towns and cities around the country also held parades.

Donegal

Many sports clubs took part in the main parade in Donegal as thousands lined the route through Letterkenny.

Up-and-coming players from the Sunday morning academy at St Eunan's GAA club marched through the town accompanied by coaches and mentors.

There were also large parades in Buncrana, Bundoran and Donegal town with one of the smallest on Arranmore Island off the west coast.

Leitrim

There were no sporting records being set in Ballinamore but organisers were claiming to have Ireland's smallest and tallest St Patricks, the latter thanks to circus-style stilts.

Cork

The east Cork village of Whitegate maintained a military theme with their St Patrick's Day parade led out by a 1967 former British army FV 432 armoured personnel carrier.

The tracked vehicle was bought as a collectors' item by a local enthusiast from surplus British army stock. Despite now being for sale on DoneDeal.ie the tracked vehicle, powered by a Rolls-Royce diesel engine, proved a show-stopper at Whitegate.

In north Cork, Churchtown stole the honours with its parade featuring the prized involvement of gold tankards from local trainer Jim Culloty's spectacular Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph by Lord Windermere.

In Fermoy, the St Patrick's Day parade attracted a record number of entries with the parade led out by community campaigner Jim Lysaght.

Wexford

Wexford town had one of its largest ever parades.The event featured 10 marching bands and 130 groups and floats.

But its smaller neighbour, the village of Duncannon, stole the show with its annual ‘beach' parade. The village is the only place in Ireland to have its St Patrick's Day parade climax in a beach party complete with a special exhibition of sand-sculptures.

Parade official Cathy Dowling said Duncannon's event had been a great success since the famous local strand was included on the parade route.

“We have been hosting the parade along the beach for the last four years and it is always a fantastic day. We have such a stunning beach here in Duncannon – it is the ideal place to host the parade.”

Tipperary

A Tipperary man became the oldest Grand Marshal at a St Patrick's Day parade.

Ned ‘Neddy' Gear (100) acted as Grand Marshal for the Littleton parade in recognition of the fact the fluent Irish speaker celebrated his 100th birthday on February 1.

Mr Gear, who has written several plays in both Irish and English, was brought through the village in a vintage car.

Kerry

Killarney again staged one of Ireland's biggest St Patrick's Day parades with a strong involvement by US groups. The parade was the centrepiece of a special St Patrick's weekend tourism promotion, which included a 50km adventure race triathlon last Sunday through the world-famous Killarney National Park.

And in Dingle they held their traditional pre-dawn parade, starting at 5.55am. The tradition is almost 165 years old and this year saw the Dingle Fife and Drum Band playing on the streets before arriving at Mass at 6.40am.

Kilkenny

Kilkenny's parade attracted record numbers thanks to a major tourism boost from the four-day TradFest.

The celebration of music, dance and song kicked off last Friday and attracted the cream of Irish musicians to the Marble City.

Clare

The St Patrick’s Day parades in Ennis, Killaloe and Ballina were dominated by the ‘Brian Boru' theme.

Floats and street drama volunteers marked the 1,000th anniversary of the death of the legendary High King, who had his power base outside Killaloe, at the battle of Clontarf.

The guests of honour at the Ennis parade were a special delegation from Lagenfeld in Germany.

Monaghan

Several hundred people took part in parades at Monaghan town, Carrickmacross and Clones, but the highlight of the annual festivities was Ireland's shortest parade in the village of Oram.

The village, just outside Castleblayney, saw showband star ‘Big Tom' McBride joined by RTE ‘Late Late Show’ bovine celebrity Pajo the calf for a parade that covered just 200m.

Organisers provided bangers and mash free of charge at a local community centre for all parade revellers.

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