St. Patrick’s Festival in Killarney

St. Patrick's Festival in Killarney Ross Castle

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated across the world every year. Killarney is no exception and the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Killarney pulls out all the stops to make sure there is something for everyone to enjoy in the festivities.

Killarney has a long history of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with the annual parade through the streets being the focal point of the day. The arrival of the St. Patrick’s Festival in Killarney in 2015 has transformed the celebration into a festivity-packed event over several days.

St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th is reputedly the date that St. Patrick died and so it is that this is the date that Ireland commemorates its patron saint and celebrates a national holiday. It also marks a traditional turning point in the seasons as it ushers out the Winter and heralds the arrival of Spring in a meaningful way. For anyone that has watched or participated in a St. Patrick’s Day parade over the years, it may not have felt very Spring-like – especially if you were sporting a costume or uniform more suited to Summer conditions.St. Patrick's Festival in Killarney Marching BandThe goosebumps one experienced from parade marching in March were more attributable to the stiff breeze than the excitement of the events.

Despite the uncertain weather conditions, the St. Patrick’s Day festivities are always something to look forward to in Killarney. As well as marking the end of Winter, it was always the unofficial opening of the ‘season’ in Killarney. Although there are year-round events and attractions in Killarney, there is always a noticeable increase in visitors from St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, St. Patrick’s Day itself attracts people to the town and the Killarney St. Patrick’s Day Festival has now become an established event in the calendar.

Killarney St. Patrick’s Day Festival

St. Patrick's Festival in Killarney Street DanceKillarney has centuries of experience in offering hospitality and in more recent years has become well versed in the art of organising and running festivals throughout the year. Since its inception in 2015, the Killarney St. Patrick’s Day Festival has hosted a variety of events for all the family to enjoy. The St. Patrick’s Day parade retains its rightful place as the focal point for all festivities. Aside from the parade, the festival has included kids fun zones, street céilís, themed lake cruises, treasure hunts, teen discos and much more. Each year the festival adopts a theme (e.g. Myths & Legends, Promoting Diversity etc) and nowhere better can this be seen than in the parade.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade is embedded in the psyche of Irish people. It is a rite of passage for many children to participate in their local parade. For those not marching, dancing, playing or acting in the parade, many have childhood memories was of catching glimpses of floats, bands or performers from crowded footpaths along the route.

St. Patrick's Festival in Killarney Parade Route 2018The parade in Killarney continues this tradition by including a variety of participants each year.  Local schools, community groups, sporting organisations, and music & cultural groups form the backbone of the parade. These are ably complemented by ‘floats’ of varying levels of sophistication with a healthy dose of humour and commentary included.

The parade winds its way through the main streets of Killarney, pausing at certain locations to entertain the spectators. More excitement can be had on the fringes of the parade. With the streets closed off to traffic, it is a chance for young and old to roam the streets in a more relaxed environment. Additional parking spaces are provided at local schools to enable all to be able to enjoy the festivities. The legendary green ice cream cone is enjoyed by many – regardless of the temperatures or weather conditions.

As important as the parade is for locals, the significance of the St. Patrick’s Festival in Killarney for visitors with Irish heritage cannot be underestimated. The Irish in Ireland may take the festivities for granted but for many with Irish roots, it is often a highlight of their visit to Ireland. Each year, the Killarney parade includes a number of visiting marching bands and groups with links to Ireland. It is a well worn cliche that the biggest St. Patrick’s Day events are held outside Ireland but there is something special for those experiencing St. Patrick’s Day on Irish soil.

Celebrating our national day

St. Patrick's Festival in Killarney KidsMost countries have national holidays and accompanying festivals or celebrations. The March 17th date means that a Mardi Gras type carnival is not likely to be adopted for St. Patrick’s Day any time soon. (Although if it transpires that St. Patrick was born in the summer months, I for one would vote for a date change!). Ireland has evolved to celebrate its national holiday with great pride and the St. Patrick’s Festival in Killarney is playing its part in this transformation. With something for all the family to enjoy and experience, the festival continues to grow as a modern event but also retaining links to the past.

To find out more about the St. Patrick’s Festival in Killarney – check out their Facebook page.  Photos in this article courtesy St. Patrick’s Festival Killarney. 

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