Dublin parade serves up bands and bewilderment aplenty

Garda dogs and horses, and council worker with poop-scoop earn loudest cheers of day

Highlights from the St Patrick's Day celebrations in Dublin. The theme of this year’s parade was Let’s Make History. Video: Bryan O'Brien and Daniel O'Connor.

Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 17:24

This year’s Dublin parade was the first of a trilogy, which is collectively entitled, Past, Present and Future. For 2014, which focused on the past, the theme was ‘Let’s Make History’.

It was an apt title, because by noon, before a single marching band or float had passed the GPO, history of a kind had already been made. There had been no rain (mere drizzle doesn’t count), hailstones or freezing wind, which are the usual trio of meteorological gifts St Patrick has bestowed upon his people watching the Dublin parade in the past.

Once President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, had taken their seats in the main grandstand, along with Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and several ambassadors, the parade started. There are actually several grandstands along O’Connell Street, and you’re allocated a seat depending on how grand you are. (The Irish Times was in number four.)

One of the first parade participants out was St Patrick himself, dressed in traditional old green robes and distinctive modern German sandals. He was swiftly followed by an automobile tricolour, in the form of three pairs of green, white and orange Mini cars; forming a kind of flag on wheels.

The Grand Marshal, cyclist Stephen Roche, was driven by in a powder-blue vintage Rolls Royce.

Early favourites with the crowds were the Garda service dogs and horses. The five horses and riders got their very own escort, in the form of a Dublin Council official, who followed in their wake, with a broom and the wherewithal to clear up swiftly after any unexpected equine bathroom break. Although the official’s only costume was his regulation council neon vest, he got one of the loudest cheers of the day.

The marching bands still make their magnificently loud music, but they dress more sensibly these days. The scores of participants in the Oklahoma Owasso High School Marching Band wore trousers. Other bands added wore woolly hats to their uniforms. The Coronado High School Mustang Band from Texas had hoodies. Apart from a few token fishnet tights and leotards from members of the Louisiana State University Tiger Marching Band, it can be reported that multiple visiting bare legs no longer suffer in the name of St Patrick.

The Artastic street theatre company, based in Co Kildare, brought neon brightness, vibrancy and imagination to the parade. ‘Let’s Make History Colourful’ was the name of their charming Celtic-themed paegent of round towers and illuminated books.

The Cork group, Dowtcha, tackled the theme of the Celtic Tiger. Their parade passed by with appropriate chaos. There were floats depicting mobile phone masts, bags of money perpetually on the move, and a horde of builders, developers and bankers, all chasing after each other. There was also something that looked like a black and white cow, taking up the rear, although no cash was visible in its vicinity.

There were mermaids in the Inishowen Carnival Group. Samuel Beckett popped up in the Dublin Brighter Futures parade. The Natural History Museum, butterflies and specimen collectors, was the theme of the Bui Bolg performance, with two aerielists visible inside a giant specimen bottle.

What does it all have to do with St Patrick? After so many years, does the question even matter? Ireland’s national St Patrick’s Day parade remains the same consoling mixture of community pageant, visiting percussion, animals, small children, vintage cars, mayoral coaches, and the frankly bewildering as ever.

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