Final touches put on parades as revellers paint town green
Locals get ready for festivities around country
BRASS drums are being polished all around the country today as bands and performers hold final rehearsals before the traditional St Patrick's Day parades tomorrow.
The 3,000 performers, who will take part in the Dublin city parade, hail from the four corners of the globe and will present their interpretation of this year's theme "The Extraordinary World" for some 650,000 spectators and millions more television viewers.
Sports presenter Des Cahill will provide live commentary as the pageantry weaves its way along the 3km parade route, while Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh and Aidan Power will present the parade live on RTE 1.
International soccer legend Packie Bonner is grand marshal this year and will lead the parade from Parnell Square, along O'Connell Street and to its finishing point at St Patrick's Cathedral.
Spectators are urged to use public transport to reach the city, to arrive well in advance of the noon start time and to wrap up well. The parade will take about one-and-a-half hours to pass any given point, organisers advised.
The carnival atmosphere continues around the fairground at Merrion Square and those who are already in party mood should head for St Stephen's Green south today where a street ceili is open to all from 4-7pm.
Meanwhile, a 40-foot crocodile, a cross-channel swimmer and giant transformer robots will try to ensure Cork beats Limerick into second place in the parades' league.
The southern city aims to break last year's attendance figure of 50,000 people with a bigger parade, a special food market and a plethora of circus and street performers.
The theme of this year's parade is 'Ship to Shore' and aims to celebrate Cork's proud maritime heritage.
Fitting that theme is parade grand marshal, Lisa Cummins, who last year successfully completed a marathon return swim of the English Channel, one of only 20 swimmers in history to traverse the 70km of waters.
Lisa will lead the 2,100 marchers together, including Captain Cook and a bevy of mermaids, from South Mall, along Grand Parade and Patrick's Street to finish in Merchants Quay.
Details of the parade and St Patrick's Day festival programme are available from www.corkstpatricksfestival.ie.
Limerick, which currently holds the record for the country's second biggest parade, is expecting 60,000 people to line the streets.
Crowds are expected to line O'Connell Street in Limerick to watch the country's second largest parade.
The theme for the event is 'I Love Limerick' and parade performers are being encouraged to wow the crowds with the things they love most about the city.
Another cross-channel swimmer, Owen O'Keeffe, will be grand marshal for the parade in Fermoy in north Cork.
The 17-year-old, who last year became the youngest Irish person to swim the Channel, will lead the fun from 11am.
But there was disappointment for parade organisers in Co Monaghan yesterday when they learned that the Chilean ambassador, Her Excellency Cecilia McKenna, who was due to attend, is now unavailable.
The invitation was extended to the Chilean envoy as a result of political and military links over the past two centuries.
In Nenagh, Co Tipperary, Mayor Hughie McGrath turned down invitations to attend celebrations in New York or San Francisco to spearhead the parade in his hometown.
Nenagh has not had a proper parade for six years and Mr McGrath vowed that one of his key ambitions in his 12-month term as First Citizen was to put that right.
He has spent the last few months founding an organising committee to revive the event. "I'm hoping that the people of Nenagh and surrounding areas will really enjoy our local parade," said Mr McGrath.
"The theme of the parade is 'stay local and buy local' so we will have over 30 groups and organisations from the community taking part in the event."