Green party revs up in glorious spring sunshine
IT's still two days until we don the shamrock for St Patrick's Day, but the party is already well under way.
Up to 90,000 revellers descended on Dublin's Merrion Square yesterday afternoon for the annual 'Big Day Out' where they were treated to samba bands and free tea and cake at a so-called 'Flash Tea Party'.
Feet were kept tapping with a range of hip-hop acts while children were treated to a range of hands-on science experiments and came face-to-face with some of the inhabitants of Dublin Zoo.
Organisers said the warm spring sunshine ensured a good turnout. They estimated that around 10,000 people an hour flocked to Merrion Square.
Just a few streets away, over 1,700 runners were limbering up for the St Patrick's Festival 5km Road Race, which was led by race director and world champion Eamonn Coghlan.
Now in its fifth year, it is open to elite athletes as well as fun-runners, many of whom were raising funds for charities.
Dublin Lord Mayor Emer Costello gave the starter's orders outside the Mansion House and competitors wound their way through the streets of Dublin before racing for the finish line back on Dawson Street.
Mullingar athlete Mark Christie was the first man home and set a new course record of 14min 12sec, shaving two seconds off the previous record. The winner in the women's category was Linda Byrne, a member of the Dundrum South Dublin Athletics Club, who whizzed around the city in 16min 7sec.
The celebrations step up a gear tomorrow night as St Stephen's Green plays host to a massive outdoor St Patrick's Eve ceili.
The main event, and the culmination of the six-day festival, will be the St Patrick's Day Parade which gets under way at noon from Parnell Square with soccer legend Packie Bonner at the helm.
Around 650,000 spectators are expected to line the 3km route for a spectacle featuring marching bands and creations from home-grown arts companies including Waterford's Spraoi and Wexford's Bui Bolg.