Carnival mood for Limerick’s St Patrick’s Festival

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

Carnival: Ashlene McFadden of Fidget Feet aerial dance company and Aidan Phelan, performance programmer for the St Patrick's Day Parade, which was launched in People's Park. Picture: Sean Curtin
STREET performers, clowns and aerial dancers will be employed before and during Limerick’s St Patrick’s Day parade to entertain the masses, expected to number 70,000 people.

STREET performers, clowns and aerial dancers will be employed before and during Limerick’s St Patrick’s Day parade to entertain the masses, expected to number 70,000 people.

Aidan Phelan, the performance programmer for this year’s parade who is working with events company Grooveyard, said those watching the parade could expect “loads and loads of fun”.

“We have entries from UL, the MA in Festive Arts, dancers and singers and music. There are going to be stilt walkers and clowns – I hear there is going to be a pie fight on the street, so I am looking forward to that,” he said.

“There are loads of great performers around the country and in Limerick, so that is really my mission, to get as many Limerick people on the streets as I can.”

The Limerick festival, which will embrace the theme of ‘Spring’, is being managed this year by the Galway-based events company Grooveyard, who won the tender from the council for an initial one-year period.

Parade co-ordinator Debbie Wright, who has worked with Macnas and on the Galway parade, said the company hope to “create a carnival spirit”.

“We are engaging with community arts facilitators to work with different groups in the city, to try and enhance the overall creativity of the parade and try and get a real carnival atmosphere going,” she said.

“We are also working with professional performers to entertain the crowds before the parade arrives.”

The parade will be shorter this year to “maximise the entertainment factor for the crowd.

“We are restricting each entry to have only one vehicle, so we don’t want fleets of vehicles going down the street.

“And we are also limiting the amount of entries to 60. We will be prioritising community, walking and charity groups for that.”

“We are trying to get away from big fleets of vehicles, big artics really, and looking to make it a much more carnival atmosphere. We are also encouraging any sports groups to actually demonstrate their skills as they are passing, it is their day to shine and to share with the crowd what they do and why they do it and why they love it,” she added.

Applications are already “rolling in” for the parade, the grand marshals for which will be aerial dance company Fidget Feet.

Ashlene McFadden of Fidget Feet, which relocated its operation to Limerick last year during City of Culture, said it was a “great honour” to be selected.

“We have watched the parade before and we are just really excited to take part and lead the rest of the participants through the city,” she said.

“We are so honoured because we have just been welcomed like we could never have expected. It is a fantastic city, the people are so warm.”

Also taking place is the 45th Limerick International Band Championship on March 15, which will again finish in a free concert for the public in Arthur’s Quay.

“We are looking at around 20 international bands, so that should be a big boom on the streets on the Sunday before,” said Debbie, a graduate of UL’s MA in Festive Arts.

“They are from America, Canada, Limerick and other national bands as well.”

The festival organisers are also seeking volunteers to help out with the parade and band championship.

See www.limerick.ie/stpatricksfestival for full details on taking part.