Glitz meets trad as bands march in step
Despite the biting cold, the ever-professional members of the University of Missouri marching band didn't let the smiles fall from their faces for a second.
Dressed in barely there sequin-covered skirts and matching short-sleeved tops, the Golden Girls, the name given to the band's pom-pom dancers, braved the cold temperatures to bring a ray of American sunshine to the streets of Limerick yesterday.
The 280-strong group claimed the top prize of Overall Parade Champion at yesterday's 46th International Band Championship which was organised as part of the city's St Patrick's Festival.
The riot of colour and noise continued with bands from near and far entertaining some 40,000 spectators who had lined the streets.
One of the loudest cheers was for two-year-old local girl Clodagh Purcell who marched in full uniform with the CBS pipe band - one of Limerick's oldest marching bands.
A total of 1,200 musicians, representing the USA, Kerry, Limerick, Westmeath, Tipperary and Donegal, took part in the parade, which wound its way from Pery Square down O'Connell Street before ending on Arthur's Quay.
The title of Best International Band was claimed by The Old Dominion University Monarch Marching Band from Virginia, USA, while Best Youth Band was scooped by Maghery Fife and Drum Band from Donegal.
And while the Americans may be the leaders in razzle-dazzle outfits, the prize for Best Uniform went to local performers at Banna Chluain Meala from Co Tipperary.
Meanwhile, Best Mixed Age Band was Dr O'Hurley Pipe Band from Cashel, Co Tipperary.
The Mayor of Limerick, Councillor Liam Galvin, congratulated the winners and praised them for "promoting Limerick's long-standing reputation as a centre of music and culture".
The city will be European Capital of Culture in four years' time and organisers are planning to make the annual competition one of the world's biggest such events by the time 2020 begins.