st pat 1Photos: St Patrick's Day Festival

St Patrick arrived in style in Dublin last Thursday. Donning dark sunglasses and driving a Mini convertible, the patron saint made a pit-stop at the city’s Grand Canal Plaza as he geared up for this year’s four-day St Patrick’s Festival program of events.

For 2014 the festival is kicking off its three-year thematic journey of ‘Past, Present and Future’. The theme of the big parade today is ‘Let’s Make History’, which draws upon the ‘Past’. 2015 will explore the present and 2016 will look to the future.

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The city has already been partying hard for three days, and today marks the culmination of the festivities. Cultural highlights include the Dublin ‘Then & Now’ free event at the City Assembly House, which is celebrating representational art in the city over the last 250 years. The City Assembly House was founded in the 1760s, and the paintings exhibited are paying homage to the work of some of these society artists and early club members, as well as a selection of work by current club members.

Alternatively, the ‘i’ free event is taking place at The Library Project in the Temple Bar district. Eamonn Doyle has been photographing his fellow Dubliners since the early ‘90s. Despite the close range, the images remain respectful and inspire feelings such as kinship and compassion. The exhibition offers a fascinating view of everyday Dubliners.

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At Dublin Castle`s Chapel Royal, there’s a ‘Solo Space’ free event featuring three of the country`s top solo performers. Iarla O Lionaird (voice), Sean Mac Erlaine (clarinet) & Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (hardanger d’amore fiddle) are all take their turn filling the vaulted ceilings of this beautiful space with their music.

There’s another free musical event at the National Concert Hall, with trad musicians Phil Callery (vocals, fiddle), Gerry Harrington, (fiddle) and Peter Browne (uilleann pipes) performing lively slides and polkas from Kerry, the hauntingly slow airs of the Irish bagpipe and the wonderful uilleann pipes.

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Understandably, the Guinness Storehouse is a hive of activity over the St Patrick’s Day Festival, showcasing some of Ireland’s best music, food and rugby. For the Storehouse’s festival, which is now in its ninth year, executive chef Justin O’Connor has created a special tribute dish to Irish rugby player Brian O’Driscoll, to celebrate his last international rugby match against France. In addition, hungry visitors are being treated to free food sample of Guinness-inspired food dishes.

Visitors can also savour a pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar overlooking the panoramic views of the city, learn how to pour their own perfect pint of the black stuff, and enjoy a selection of eclectic Irish music.

St Patrick’s Day is big news at the Guinness Storehouse. In fact, last year some 18,000 complimentary servings of Irish smoked salmon on Guinness Bread were enjoyed at the Guinness Storehouse; 20,000 visitors from over 25 countries passed through the Guinness gates; over 8,000 people were awarded the `Perfect Pint Pour` certificate; 315 musicians played over the weekend; 1,000 loaves of Guinness brown bread were baked over the weekend; and 50 international media crews broadcast from the Storehouse.

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And last – but by no means least – the festival’s main event, the St Patrick’s Festival Parade, which is being watched by millions more around the world, is welcoming the music of international marching bands as it swirls through the heart of the city past some of Dublin’s most famous and historic landmarks.

With a live audience on the streets of Dublin of over half a million people, Ireland’s leading pageant companies are animating their interpretations of the ‘Let’s Make History’ parade theme this year. The three-kilometre route will be filled with characters and creations from Irish artistic groups including Buí Bolg, Spraoi, Brighter Futures, Artastic, City Fusion, Inishowen Carnival Group, Macnas and Dowtcha.