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Belfast’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade drew thousands to City Hall, as organisers incorporated the upcoming Titanic centennial and the success of local golfer Rory McIlroy into the festivities.
This year’s parade kicked off at 12pm and lasted a full half hour, during which the thousands of spectators were treated to sights including: aerial acrobatics from two machine-operated figures; a float bearing the likeness of current World Number One golfer Rory McIlroy, who hails from Northern Ireland; a special Titanic display to commemorate the upcoming centennial anniversary of the ship’s infamous sinking, as well as to publicise the launch of the new Titanic quarter opening in Belfast; and a 20-ft high float depicting an Olympic athlete carrying the Olympic torch, in honour of this summer’s Games which will take place in London and hopefully by extension attract tourists to Northern Ireland.
The parade was, and has always been, a family-friendly event, with attendees ranging in age from 6 to 60, and almost everybody wearing some sort of themed-clothing. The most popular piece of apparel was undoubtedly the shamrock, which could be seen on lapels, hats, t-shirts and even sunglasses. By the time that the parade had ended, shamrock flags littered Donegall Square.
In other parts of the city, people were treated to a free open-air concert at Custom House Square headlined by Scottish bagpiping act ‘Red Hot Chili Pipers’ and 2011 X Factor contestant Sophia Habibis. Habibis made it to the live finals of the popular British talent show, but was controversially eliminated in the fourth week of the competition. Also at the concert, which maintained the family-friendly feel by being an all-ages affair, were folk band Ashelin and The Royal Tara School of Irish Dance.
It was a day of full-on promotional moves by the city’s most popular bars, with Black Box in particular offering free entry and pints of Guinness for just ¬£2.50, in the hopes of attracting some of the tourists who travel to Belfast and Dublin every year to soak up the ‘Irishnesss’ of the day.
But without question, the place to be was in Fibber Magees Pub in the heart of the city. From 2pm to 2am, local musicians performed Irish music and entertained the packed house, with the establishment’s proximity to Belfast’s popular Europa Hotel making it the number one stop for any and all tourists making their way into Belfast for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.