675,000 people throng streets for colour and culture

MORE than 675,000 people from home and abroad lined the streets of Dublin for one of the world’s most colourful St Patrick’s Day parades.

The heart of the city was transformed into a multicultural festival for the two-hour spectacle, which saw street theatre troupes, artists, giant puppetry, dancers and marching bands from Ireland and further afield weave the 2.5km route across the capital.

The parade, made up of about 2,000 performers and over 900 marching band members, kicked off at noon from Parnell Square North and was the highlight of Dublin’s six-day St Patrick’s weekend festival.

International bands joined the parade from as far afield as New Mexico, Indiana, Las Vegas, Colorado, Louisiana, Florida, Italy, India, Germany, British Colombia and Canada.

Even characters from the hit TV show The Simpsons made an appearance.

Alison Kelly, St Patrick’s Festival spokeswoman, said the standard of floats and entrants in the parade was very high.

“They’re just getting better every year,” she said.

“The sun just made it a beautiful day and everybody had a great time.”

Superintendent Joe Gannon of Pearse Street Garda Station said numbers were larger than expected.

“Everything has gone perfectly. There were huge crowds that far exceeded expectations we think.”

Spectators clambered to find every available vantage point to catch a glimpse of the march, perching on window ledges, lampposts and climbing on statues.

And, untypically, they were blessed with warm, spring weather, with the sun shining and temperatures hitting the low to mid-teens.

College Green and other streets in the capital were transformed into a sea of fluffy green leprechaun top hats, with face painters and street vendors selling scarves and flags.

Among the massive crowd were visitors from the US, mainland Europe, Britain, Australia and South America.

Puerto Rican students Adriana Perez and Sofia Iturrino, who are studying in Spain, travelled to Ireland for the festivities and were pleasantly surprised.

The pair were mingling outside Trinity College, decked out in green hats and with shamrocks painted on their faces.

“I loved it. It’s not too crazy, it’s very well organised, I liked it a lot,” Adriana said.

But the ringing endorsement came from 10-year-old Allie Beatty and her 12-year-old sister Nicole, who travelled in from Knocklyon with mum Siobhan, and sister Zara, seven.

“It’s deadly, it’s so cool. I loved King Kong, and I loved the caterpillar,” said an ecstatic Allie. “It was brilliant. We thought it was going to be bad, but then when we saw it we were really glad we came.”

In a special move to mark the GAA’s 125th anniversary, the four All-Ireland winning captains lined out as joint grand marshals.

Tyrone football captain Brian Dooher, Kilkenny hurling’s Henry Shefflin, Cork footballer Angela Walsh and Cathriona Foley of the Cork camogie squad were selected to lead the massive march.

The stars represented the four winning teams in the senior cup championships and were selected for their achievements on the fields of play, as well as to mark the momentous anniversary.

And despite thousands heading straight to bus and train stations to make their way home after the parade, the party was set to continue late into the night.

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