A 25-foot Giant Grandmother moved much more than traffic when she finally arrived in Limerick for her highly anticipated three day visit.
A sea of smiles and many teary eyes greeted the enormous marionette when she arrived by train this morning.
Despite its controversial start Limerick City of Culture has finally staged its biggest event to date, and though it cost €1 million to produce it would seem French theatre company Royal de Luxe has delivered on its promise following a spellbinding first day performance.
More than 60,000 people attended the first of the three day street extravaganza which is expected to attract up to 200,000 people to Limerick over the weekend.
Some 27 Lilliputians are tasked with moving the Giant Grandmother who is followed by her own band of musicians and a massive wheelchair - weighing 5 tonnes.
But despite the phenomenal skill of the puppeteers tasked with moving their 85-year-old charge - raising every individual step by rope pulley - all eyes are drawn to the 25 foot Grandmother who is handled as though she was a living being.
"I just want to give her a hug," exclaimed one older lady after the 1 tonne giant was finally hoisted off the train and brought to meet the thousands of spectators gathered at Colbert Station.
"I think she looks like my Granny. It's her face, it is just amazing and the way she moves. I found the whole thing just so emotional. I can't believe how she made me feel. You actually think she is looking at you," said Limerick grandmother Margaret Galvin.
Among the thousands gathered to greet the giant, who is half Breton and half Irish, was Londoner Barbara Franc who has travelled to France, Denmark and across the UK to see the Royal de Luxe Giants.
“It’s spellbinding seeing the children’s faces. If you take the time to turn around and look at the audience you just see a sea of smiles. They are phenomenal this company,” she said. “The puppeteers treat the puppet as if she is a real and interact with her as if she was a real Granny a real human being and that’s part of the magic.”
American visitor Steve Matney travelled from Washington DC to see the Giant Grandmother having already seen other Royal De Luxe Giants in Nantes and Berlin.
“It’s just magical. I have been trying to describe it to people and that’s the best word I can come up with it’s just magical. We didn’t realise how much the music would fit into it until we saw it. But the production and the whole attention to detail and all the other things going on it is just amazing,” he said.
Limerick City of Culture boss Mike Fitzpatrick, a central figure in the project, was equally moved when the Giant Grandmother finally arrived.
“Because I have been working on it for a few months it’s very emotional for me to finally have her here, but already you can see how the Grandmother has connected with people,” he said.
“People are saying ‘thank you for bringing Granny to see us’, so it’s a very unbelievable phenomena but it is very exciting. There is a sense that it is a wonderful moment.”
School children were among the estimated 60,000 people who lined the parade route to see the Grandmother on her first day in Limerick.
And as promised there were plenty of surprise especially when the story telling Giant stopped and squatted to take a giant pee in the middle of O’Connell Street.
Onlookers were equally awestruck as they watched the enormous Grandmother being manoeuvred onto her giant wheelchair on Hartstonge Street before being pushed down to Russell Park where she stopped for nap.
During her three day visit the 85-year-old giant will stop at various locations to read myths and legends about Limerick city in her own dialect which is translated by well known Irish actor Louis Lovett.