Whatever floats your boat - 600,000 to line capital's streets
Parade sure to surprise revellers as ‘Imagine If’ theme rolled out
Underwater houses, trips to space and a 25-metre long snake are just a snippet of the treats in store for more than half-a-million people as they line Dublin's streets for today's St Patrick's Day parade.
Revellers will be catapulted 100 years into the future, where modern issues such as housing are but an afterthought.
The 'Imagine If' theme is the third and final instalment of the parade's past, present and future sequence, and takes inspiration from the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
Each float has originated from the minds of children across the country, who shared their ideas over the past six months.
Sunny conditions will now see an anticipated 600,000 people take to Dublin's streets for the parade, which kicks off at 12pm.
However, with many planning to line the streets from as early as 7am, families are being warned to get into the capital well in advance if they want a good view.
The flagship event of the Dublin tourism calendar will have 12 grandstands dotted along the route, with seats for 1,935 people.
Creative director for the festival, Suzanna Lagan, told the Irish Independent that it was the first time they had passed the mantle of idea generation on to the children of Ireland, and they hadn't disappointed.
"We went around the country and spoke to lots of young people about their hopes and dreams for the future.
"And the ideas and drawings that came out of those workshops have been given to the pageant companies and this is what has inspired the floats," Ms Lagan said.
"A lot of the children wanted to live in a future Ireland where everyone had a home so 'Home, Above and Below' is a light-hearted look at the different places we might live in in 100 years' time," she added.
Another highlight will be St Patrick - dressed as a ninja no less - doing battle with a 25-metre long snake.
Meanwhile, Spraoi has created a treehouse made of 300 copper leaves, while there will also be a unique underwater house.
More than 3,000 people will take part in the parade, with 14 marching bands and a ceremonial section at the front of the queue. The parade route takes in 2.7km of the city.
With 20 years' experience covering the Dublin parade, Spraoi artistic director Mike Leahy insists its preparations are down to a fine art - almost.
"We've just been doing the final assemblies and the staff got a final rehearsal in last night at the Green Isle Hotel," Mr Leahy said.
"We've a fair bit of prep, but we're nearly there."
Major parades at the ready across the country
Dublin may be the centrepiece for the celebrations, but major plans are in place in cities, towns and villages around the country for their very own St Patrick's Day parades.
n An estimated 80,000 people are anticipated to take advantage of the dry conditions for the Limerick parade featuring 4,000 participants across 100 community groups.
Pop duo Jedward will even be involved in the event and are said to have strong Limerick ties through their grand uncle, Vincent Feeney, who is a former mayor of the city.
Mayor of Limerick Liam Galvin said the parade "provides Limerick with an excellent opportunity to promote itself as a modern, thriving and vibrant city that we know and love to the rest of Ireland".
In Clare, a 97-year-old 'Patrick' will be front and centre of the parade. Patrick 'Packie' Wall is the oldest living Patrick in the county and will assume the role of grand marshal on a horse-drawn carriage in front of more than 10,000 locals.
Cork will have a popular theme with the legacy of 1916 celebrated. It will run from the Grand Parade at 1pm.
The Sunny South East will present a parade with a twist, with the pick of Wexford's festivities taking place on Duncannon beach. The parade will start outside the Star of the Sea church in Duncannon at 4pm, travelling down the Main Street, and from there it will go onto Duncannon beach. The extravaganza will be led by FAI Chief Executive, John Delaney, as grand marshal.
Galway's energy and dynamism will be reflected in its 113th parade, as the city looks to impress yet again in its quest to become European Capital of Culture in 2020.
On Achill Island, traditional pipe bands will begin the celebrations from first light, making the island's parade one of the longest parades anywhere. Bands begin with a 6am reveille and perform from sunrise to sunset.
Sligo town will draw in the biggest crowd in the county, with 60 floats, eight bands and around 25,000 people ready to be entertained.
Donegal's biggest town, Letterkenny, is yet again hosting the county's biggest parade. It kicks off at the later time of 3pm with army commander Donal McCafferty and his 28th Battalion at Camp reading the proclamation. The main parade gets under way at 12.45pm and will feature a display of dozens of modern and vintage minis.
The town has gone green - with the bridge over the Shannon lit up for the day.