LIMERICK, in its stint as national City of Culture in 2014, is fittingly to host its largest ever St Patrick’s Festival later this month.
More than 4,000 people are expected to participate in this year’s parade in the city, with up to 70,000 spectators lining the streets, making it the largest in Limerick’s history.
Details were unveiled at a photo-call - closed to media - this week of the festival programme. A Grand Marshal will be announced “in the coming days” while this year’s flag ambassadors are the students of Coláiste Chiaráin in Croom.
The 44th Limerick International Band Championship will feature 21 marching bands.
A number of other events will also take place in the city, including the Paddy’s Day Unlocked gig in the Milk Market after the parade, an alcohol-free event that will feature a number of high profile local performers.
Several local landmark buildings - including King John’s Castle and City Hall - will ‘go green’ to mark the holiday.
The parade will feature highly acclaimed street theatre group Macnas and Buí Bolg Productions, who were involved in the New Year’s Eve celebrations in the city to launch City of Culture.
Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Kathleen Leddin, said the Paddy’s Day festivities would be on a sufficient scale to mark the national designation of City of Culture.
“The parade attracts a growing number and variety of participants each year and this year’s event is no exception,” said the northside councillor.
“I look forward to greeting the many thousands of people from across Limerick and further afield during the parade, which I know will showcase the vibrant and diverse culture that exists here.
“I want to pay tribute to the huge amount of work, time and resources that have been invested by the St Patrick’s Festival organisers and sponsors in preparing a comprehensive programme of events.”
The day before the parade, 21 bands will perform in the international band championship. Over 1000 musicians are expected to compete for the title of ‘Overall Parade Champion’ in Ireland’s only international band competition which will start from Pery Square at noon on Sunday, March 16 and culminate in a free concert for the public in Arthur’s Quay Park.
The Orchestra of The Estonian Defence Forces and four bands from the USA will participate alongside a large number of Limerick bands.
Mayor Leddin said the event would feature “a world class judging panel”, attract some 40,000 spectators and would “celebrate the importance of music to the people of Limerick during its City of Culture reign”.
“Limerick is immensely proud of this annual event and looks forward to welcoming hundreds of musicians and their families from all over the world,” she said.
Other events on the bank holiday weekend will include a festival of National Hunt Racing in Limerick Racecourse on Saturday and Sunday, a St Patrick’s themed day in the Hunt Museum on the day itself, a Genealogy Day on Saturday, Ceol Luimnigh in LIT on Friday, and weekend markets in the Milk Market through the weekend.