St Patrick’s Day events set to feel the force of wintry weather

There will be 150 parades across the country this year, despite the predicted cold

O’Connell Street during last year’s St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

O’Connell Street during last year’s St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

He banished snakes from the country but people attending St Patrick’s Day parades around Ireland this weekend may well wish our patron saint had focused his attention on fixing the cold weather.

As preparations get under way for the bank holiday festivities, those embracing the occasion are facing into what will be one of the coldest St Patrick’s Days for some time.

Met Éireann said Saturday would be cold and breezy, with afternoon temperatures of 1-3 degrees forecast in the east and up to 6 degrees in the west. Wintry showers are forecast in the east and south, and temperatures could fall as low as minus 4 degrees on Saturday night.

“There certainly have been some wash outs,” says former Met Éireann chief forecaster Gerald Fleming, who has watched menacing weather systems pass over plenty of parades.

“There would have been some years when it was just wet and cold and people did what they needed to do and then disappeared off into houses.”

Bitter east winds are common in March, he explains, with Dublin and the east coast feeling the chill in particular.

Ahead of the weekend, local authorities across the island have been preparing for more than 150 parades of varying size, expected to attract a total audience of about 800,000 people.

The main event in Dublin – which will “feel the presence” of Star Wars legend Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker – is itself expected to attract 500,000 people along its 3.2km route.

It will have pageants from around Ireland, more than 2,000 musicians and the customary American marching bands.

Economic opportunity

Apart from national pride, St Patrick’s Day offers an important economic opportunity to towns and villages. According to the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), parades are worth about €200,000 to places like Sligo town and Waterford while Bray in Co Wicklow stands to generate €350,000.

Dublin City Council is spending €450,000 and events across the capital are estimated to have a value of €50 million to the economy. Cork city should attract about 50,000 spectators.

Co Mayo will host about 15 parades; there will be 12 in Co Tipperary; seven in Co Offaly; six in Co Sligo and Westmeath; five in Co Wicklow and Co Monaghan; and four in Co Kilkenny and Co Waterford.

Themes

It is not all marching bands with parades differentiating themselves along local and thematic lines. Galway is pitching its event as the “West of Ireland, Region of Gastronomy” and will turn its Eyre Square fountain green.

Its Unesco City of Film designation has prompted a series of free open air screenings throughout the weekend.

Sligo will celebrate the “Year of the Woman”, fitting for the birth county of Countess Markievicz, the first woman elected to the House of Commons.

Carlow town’s parade will be led by Special Olympians; Newbridge in Co Kildare will celebrate the Irish language; and Ashbourne in Co Meath will adopt a “Dreams” theme, with a 75ft Chinese dragon ready to fuel imaginations.

Rhode in Co Offaly will hold its first ever St Patrick’s Day parade and members of the Chinese community play a central role in events in Bray, Co Wicklow.

These parades and their myriad themes, says the LGMA, represent “cultural diversity and [ensure the] integration of other nationalities living in our local communities”.

Events focusing on the Irish diaspora are also a key part of Saturday’s cultural offering.

For those less keen on snaking lines of entertainers, there are other events over the weekend including the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival in Howth, Co Dublin; the St Patrick’s Festival in Cork; and the Trad Fest in Co Kilkenny.

A complete guide to your St Patrick’s Day festivities can be found here:https://www. irishtimes.com/planning-your-st-patrick-s-weekend-events-better-read-this-1.3419618