Two million to hit streets for St Patrick's weekend 'Gathering'
A Lord of the Dance, US marching bands, leprechauns, GAA heroes and Special Olympians will proudly lead a plethora of St Patrick's Day parades nationwide.
More than two million people are expected to take to Irish streets over the next three days as the country honours its patron saint – and works to maintain the multi-million-euro tourism momentum of 'The Gathering'.
The theme for this year's Dublin parade is 'Let's Make History', and pageant designers have drawn on fairy tales, love songs and Celtic Tiger pups for inspiration.
"It's complete madness at the moment," pageant director Muirne Bloomer said. "Feathers and sequins are being glued to floats and dance routines perfected. There are Vulcan drummers, ostriches and mermaids – it's a mixed bag."
Up to 500,000 people are expected to crowd the streets of the capital to see the bold and bright floats and wave grand marshal cyclist Stephen Roche on his way.
Marching bands from Ireland, Estonia, Oklahoma and Germany will stomp along the 2.6km route while hurling baton sticks into the air.
'The Enchanted Banquet' taking place in Earlsfort Terrace this evening will appeal to food lovers with a passion for local artisan produce. Diners will tuck into a five-course meal while musicians and performers keep them entertained with musical interludes.
For film lovers, the Floating Cinema will return to Grand Canal Dock tomorrow night at 7.30pm with a screening of 'Waking Ned' starring the late and great David Kelly.
Meanwhile, more than 150,000 people are expected to visit Cork city and county over the next three days, with its parade being led by none other than Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley.
The Cork festival also features an artisan food market, while today a healthy eating promotion will see a hearty vegetable curry offered free to 5,000 city revellers.
Limerick – this year's National Capital of Culture – is expecting more than 80,000 people for its parade. An action-packed three-day programme will also see more than 1,000 bands compete tomorrow in the Limerick International Band Championship.
Galway celebrates the 111th anniversary of its first St Patrick's Day parade, with the grand marshal being champion Irish dancer Claire Greaney.
More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the Galway parade – with a theme of 'The Sea' – which once again will feature some of the world's best street theatre performers.
Waterford, the first Irish city to declare St Patrick's Day a holiday, will have RTE personality Megan Cassidy as its grand marshal. The parade hopes to attract 60,000 people, with its 'Viking Quarter' being the hub of street entertainment.
One of the more unusual parades taking place will be in Wexford where one village, Duncannon, has opted for a St Patrick's Day beach party.