Blast off for Limerick’s St Patrick’s Day parade as grand marshal is revealed

Mayor James Collins with Luka Sean Og Rosenthal Morrissey and Dr Norah Patten, this year’s Grand Marshal Picture: Sean Curtin/True Media

Mayor James Collins with Luka Sean Og Rosenthal Morrissey and Dr Norah Patten, this year’s Grand Marshal Picture: Sean Curtin/True Media

THE woman seeking to be the first Irish person in space will be Limerick’s grand marshal for the St Patrick’s Day parade.

University of Limerick graduate Dr Norah Patten, who is in the running to be Ireland’s first astronaut, has been unveiled as the grand marshal this Tuesday.

The theme of this year’s parade is One Giant Leap, marking the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon.

Limerick’s St Patrick’s festival will include the parade, Ireland’s only international Band Championship featuring more than 1,300 musicians, a dazzling fireworks display, a 40 foot panoramic wheel and the Museum of the Moon.

Dr Patten said she was “deeply moved, what an incredible honour”.

“When I was 19, I moved from my home in Mayo to a new home in Limerick when I began my studies at the University of Limerick. I’ve spent most of my adult life here and I feel a deep sense of gratitude to the people of Limerick for the welcome and inclusion I have experienced over the years.

“It’s a great honour to accept the invitation to be Grand Marshal at this year’s Limerick’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It is so wonderful to hear that my ambition and progress to become Ireland’s first person in space is inspiring others to reach for the stars and it is very exciting to hear the theme this year is ‘One Giant Leap’ in memory of the moon landing,” she added.

Among those who will be taking the theme of One Giant Leap and transforming it into some creative street theatre are: Lumen Street Theatre; Space Odyssey; Artastic and Spraoi.

The parade will be filled with participants from all parts of Limerick and across the country, including schools, sports clubs, industry and the new communities that now call Limerick home. The  two kilometre route will be lined with tens of thousands of spectators and Mayor of the City and County of Limerick, Cllr James Collins, said it was “always a special time, with the young and old participating in the parade”.

“It is a time for families and this year there is a host of events taking place around the two main attractions of the parade and band championship. Limerick is at its best celebrating our national holiday and we have so much to offer locals and visitors alike, in what has become a weekend full of celebrations,” he said.

The International Band Championship, now in its 49th year, will feature a total of 21 bands, eight of which are travelling from America. Others are coming from Estonia, Germany, Britain as well as local and other Irish bands. It takes place on Monday, March 18 from 12 noon.

The festival will kick off with a spectacular fireworks display on Saturday, March 16 at 9.30pm.

To tie in with the theme of this year’s parade, and honouring the lasting effect that the moon landing has had on the world, the Museum of the Moon will land in St. Mary’s Cathedral from March 15 - 22.

Sheila Deegan, Culture and Arts Officer with Limerick City and County Council said: “I’m very excited to see what kind of mischief people will get up to in responding to the theme of this year’s parade. The parade has changed immeasurably over the past number of years, with the emphasis on fun and spectacle. It is the centrepiece of the weekend’s festival, which now extends to three days.

"It’s fantastic to see over 20 bands coming to Limerick for the 49th International Band Championship, something which is unique to Limerick while, I would encourage everyone to go and see the moon indoors in St. Mary’s Cathedral. It will be a sight to behold.

"We are working with Fáilte Ireland on showcasing Limerick St. Patrick’s Festival as the biggest event outside of Dublin and we will make all our visitors very welcome.”

The deadline for entries for the St Patrick’s Day Parade is this Thursday.