Thousands throng to Merrion Square for festivities


BIG DAY OUT:THEY CALLED it the “Big Day Out” and, certainly for every child and many adults there, it couldn’t have been bigger.

As the week-long St Patrick’s Festival got into its stride, day three saw Merrion Square in Dublin and a few surrounding streets turned into a huge car-free playground and fairground.

It was a sunny day, and thousands thronged to the square for a musical, entertainment and even educational extravaganza.

One side of the square had the standard pay-as-you-go fairground with big wheel, dodgems and all the usual attractions.

It was supplemented on the other side of the square with a coconut shy, strongman test and “squash the rat”, where a rat-like creature was shoved down a cannon and children got to hold a stick and try to hit the rat as it came out the other end.

A caravan housed the Sol Cinema, which was powered by the sun and showed shorts, while another mobile cinema showed an advance from a soon-to-be released cartoon film, How to Train your Dragon.

Street theatre shows ran throughout the afternoon, with entertainers Planet Jump Rope from Belgium teaching children to skip using two ropes rather than one, in between hip-hop acrobatic shows.

Face painting was provided free, while unicyclists and clowns entertained on the streets. The festival organisers also held what they called a “flash party” – a surprise party with tea and cakes to mark the 15th year of the festival.

On one corner of Merrion Square, the US Institute Brass band played favourites tunes, while behind them children played foosball on a bouncy castle base.

On another side of the square, there were lessons in making pixie hats out of paper, interactive wooden games and unusual musical instruments including rows of recorders covered with wellingtons, each one sounding a different note when the wellington was squeezed.

In the park itself, artist Fintan MacGearailt created a street-art installation with a painting of St Patrick, while in an open tent traditional Irish music was playing.

Science and engineering got a look-in with a short and entertaining science show, while a science fair included an energy bike where children cycled to see how much energy it took to light a series of light bulbs.

The festival events continue in Dublin today with a discussion forum from 2pm on new media and the internet at the Ark in Temple Bar. Tomorrow, a massive outdoor céilí takes place at St Stephen’s Green from 4pm to 7pm, while at Tripod, Harcourt Street, at 6.30pm, a discussion will take place with on theme What has Ireland done for the World?

On St Patrick’s Day itself the big parade starts from Parnell Square at noon. For more details see