Fun, fireworks and parties to mark St Patrick's Day
FROM fireworks to film and the "most amazing parade in the world", there's something for everyone this St Patrick's Day.
The festival is not just a one- day affair -- organisers are offering a six-day helping of street theatre, music, visual arts and a ceili to celebrate all things Irish.
The fun starts on March 12 and organisers promise the festivities won't be limited to Dublin.
And most importantly -- it is set to deliver a massive €58.3m cash boost to the Irish economy with one million people expected on the streets to watch festival events.
One of this year's highlights is the National Lottery Skyfest in Limerick City, with 50,000 people expected to attend a fireworks display at King John's Castle overlooking the Shannon.
Families can look forward to a 'Big Day Out' in Merrion Square on March 14. And a monster ceili will get pulses racing at St Stephen's Green at 4pm on St Patrick's Eve.
Colourful characters including a "dancing puppet", "a liquorice sweet" and a "candy floss girl" gave a flavour of the March 17 parade at the festival launch yesterday.
This year's parade will feature the work of pageant companies from all over Ireland and marching bands from the US, Bulgaria and France.
Vijaia Bateson of the Artastic street theatre company, who have created over 200 characters for the parade, said the theme of the project is a "topsy- turvey world".
"A world where everything is a little upside down and nobody takes things too seriously," he explained.
The festival finale -- late on St Patrick's night -- will be two concerts entitled 'A Celebration of Irish Voices'.
One will feature Dónal Lunny and leading folk figures in the National Concert Hall. The other will take place in The Olympia Theatre and feature traditional band Kíla.
CEO of St Patrick's Festival Susan Kirby said organisers suffered a cut in funding for this year's festivities but found creative ways around the problem.
"We did have a reduction in our funding this year, in saying that, the festival constantly innovates and changes its programme and we have cut our cloth to deal with the cuts," she said.
Minister Martin Cullen said last night that the St Patrick's Festival provided the country with an "opportunity to enjoy the best contemporary celebration of Irish music, heritage, culture and community".
He said it "encompasses a feeling of what it means to be Irish -- and on most continents to be 'honorary Irish' -- for the day".
"It projects a very positive image of Ireland, an Ireland that has modernised and changed immeasurably, but still manages to maintain the very best of its culture and traditions."
Mr Cullen said the festival was "particularly good" for the Irish tourism industry.