Colourful capital event in safe hands
The sun shone down on the Dublin parade yesterday as an estimated 650,000 people, some even wearing T-shirts, lined the streets for the colourful extravaganza.
With a theme of 'An Extraordinary World', the parade was a dazzling display of the wild, wacky and whimsical -- with giant spiders, enormous mechanical elephants and a large inflatable rainbow -- a beacon of hope -- at the end of it all.
It was balm to the soul and the streets of the capital were a sea of green, with all of the people who had turned out to watch the parade in good spirits and out for a good time.
It seemed 2010 was the year we resuscitated the leprechaun. Little green hats were everywhere and there were even several beards.
Mr Whippy was doling out green 99s and enterprising street traders were doing a roaring trade in flags, tinsel wigs and whistles.
And it appeared it had been worth pulling out all the stops to attract the tourists -- there seemed to be a staggering number from all over the globe, with a proliferation of Aussie and American, British, Italian and German accents, all cheerfully boosting our economy.
Outside every youth hostel was a Mad Hatter's convention of tourists in towering green hats consulting their maps.
A freshly laundered tricolour fluttered over the GPO on O'Connell Street and the commentator was gamely trying to bellow his way through 'If you're Irish Come into the Parlour' over the drone of the garda helicopter just before the parade began.
In the grandstand were a few homegrown celebrities -- Westlife's Nicky Byrne and his wife Georgina; celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin; radio broadcaster Ray D'Arcy and his wife Jenny; and TV's Lorraine Keane and her husband musician Peter Devlin.
Shortly before noon, a host of green balloons were released into the sky and the crowd roared in anticipation.
Then President Mary McAleese, in a long woollen coat of sage green arrived, waving her hand to onlookers. The Army No 1 Band struck up with the 'Fields of Athenry'.
The arrival of the Dublin Lord Mayor in her coach sparked confusion amongst a group of young Aussie tourists. "Do you have to be royalty to take part in the parade?" one of them asked an older Irish man who just gazed at him blankly in silent bewilderment.
And then finally the parade was underway with soccer legend Packie Bonner -- the safe pair of hands in the 1990 World Cup and capped 80 times for Ireland -- as Grand Marshall, waving to the crowd from the back of the open-topped car.
Waterford group Spraoi were up first with their "Eggstraordinary" take on the theme, with giant cracked eggs, dancing chefs and a huge armoured rooster.
Next up were the Artastic group from Kildare, who featured strange magical creatures like large dolls and talking cats in bowler hats.
"This is so weird -- but great," gasped an American tourist wearing a collection of green mardi gras beads to her husband, who clearly had been expecting something along more traditional lines.
The Irish League of Credit Unions, the festival sponsors, had a gigantic Gulliver who awoke to find himself in Lilliput surrounded by performers wearing blue and white flower backpacks to reflect the Credit Union's identity.
Swaying colourful "Babel Towers Travellers" cut a swathe down O'Connell Street from Donegal's Luxe group to gypsy music.
It was out with the Harley's and in with the pushbike as a host of cyclists, bells tinkling, ended the parade.
In the grandstand, John Gormley sighed with satisfaction. A good day had by all.