St Patrick’s Festival looks to the future as it celebrates 21st birthday

St Patrick’s Festival in Dublin will look to the future when it celebrates a 21st birthday next month.

St Patrick’s Festival looks to the future as it celebrates 21st birthday

The four-day festival, taking place March 17-20, was established by Enda Kenny during his tenure as transport and tourism minister.

The first event, held over one day and night in 1996, took five months to prepare. It now takes 18 months, so preparations for 2017 have already started.

Now the largest festival in Ireland, it attracts more than 112,000 overseas visitors, generating €73m for the economy.

Two years ago, the festival began a three-year creative theme for the parade: The past, the present, and the future.

This year’s theme, “Imagine If...”, will reflect how young people in Ireland visualise the next 100 years.

Festival organisers held a series of workshops with young people around the country to discuss their views on the future of the country.

Leading pageant companies were tasked with responding artistically to the thoughts and ideas put forward by the youngsters.

Among the colourful pageantry will be bands from Ireland who will be joined by music ensembles from the US, Britain, and Brittany.

The spectacular parade, bursting with colour and theatrics, will wind its way from Parnell Square through the heart of Dublin on the big day.

The grand marshal has not been confirmed yet but an announcement is expected this month.

The festival is an official programme partner of Ireland 2016 and a number of events have been inspired by the Easter Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Paschal Donohoe, the transport, tourism, and sport minister, said the festival provided an opportunity to promote all that is good about Ireland on an international stage.

Funded by Fáilte Ireland and Dublin City Council, the principal aim since its inauguration is to have a festival that Irish people could be proud of.

Organisers have been told to portray the country internationally as a creative, professional, and sophisticated country with wide appeal.

St Patrick’s Day is the national holiday celebrated in more countries around the world than any other.

Events include the festival céilí taking place on Friday, March 18. It is Ireland’s biggest outdoor celebration of traditional Irish dancing.

A festival treasure hunt takes place on Saturday, March 19. It’s a family-friendly event with people young and old gathering and solving clues at some of the city’s most impressive landmarks and venues.

The festival’s Big Day Out takes place on Sunday, March 20, in the heart of Georgian Dublin, with Merrion Square providing the setting for a day-long street carnival.

One of the partner events is the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival, taking place in Howth over the four days of the St Patrick’s Festival, where lots of prawn dishes in bite-sized portions will be served.

Gaelspraoi will provide Irish language entertainment for all ages at a number of city centre venues.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence