City prepares for a St Patrick’s Day festival of fun

PROFESSIONAL pageant grants and a massive community involvement will add a dimension to next month’s St Patrick’s Day parade in Cork, organisers promised last night.

The parade will kick off a three-day St Patrick’s Festival, which is expected to attract thousands of visitors, boosting the local economy by up to e30 million.

Details of this year’s expanded event, backed by Blackpool Developments, were unveiled last night.

For the first time, grants have been awarded to three companies to develop parade floats.

And with thousands of members of community arts groups, and bands from all over Ireland and the US due to march, it will be the biggest, loudest and most colourful parade the city has seen for years.

Almost 3,000 volunteers in four community groups, named Fire, Earth, Wind and Water, have been designing costumes and floats for months.

They will begin decorating trees in the city centre in the coming days.

They will all come together for the Alice in Wonderland-themed parade on Friday, March 17, which will be led by a number of Cork’s sporting heroes.

The parade will leave the South Mall at 1pm, head up towards the Grand Parade, up St Patrick’s Street, across St Patrick’s Bridge and finish on MacCurtain Street.

The Festival’s artistic director, Moray Bresnihan, said it will be an inclusive event.

“The range and variety of what is planned is enormous and the result of months and months of preparation will be obvious for all to see,” he said.

But the parade is just one element of the three-day festival, he said.

Last year’s hugely successful food market has been extended and will take place on Oliver Plunkett St, Academy Street and Emmet Place over the entire weekend.

A Carnival of Fools featuring top international street theatre acts will take place on Saturday and Sunday.

There will also be a funfair on Alfred Street and free children’s events in the City Library.

Lord Mayor Deirdre Clune, said that the Festival was a genuine collaboration between business, cultural and voluntary sectors in the city.

“Investment generated by events such as this should not be underestimated,” she said.

“In 2005 there was a 45% increase in bed nights occupancy in our hotels during the Festival.”

A special event, the Big Night, has been created for the night of March 17.

* corkstpatricksfestival.ieor 021-4802596.

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