There are now 100's of St Patricks Day parades throughout Ireland and many of the smaller more local ones are just as much fun as the big one in Dublin. So dont feel disappointed if you cant make it up there on the day, even though it is the longest running and best (I am a Dubliner). What started out as a military parade with marching bands which then got regulated to Easter Sunday(to commerate the 1916 rising)eventually dying out in favour of the much larger St Patrick Day Parade that it is today.
Which has just grown and grown with the participation of groups of visiting marching, dancing and pipe bands from all over the world including brave barelegged cheerleaders from the USA and our own little Irish dancing girls, scouts and guides, all decked out in their uniforms, often blue with the cold....
What really reved it up a notch was the participation of Macnas, a small community based theatre company from Galway who invented huge fantastic moving puppets for use in street theatre, parades, particularly the Galway Arts Festival. Often copied but never matched, Macnas itself means 'joyful abandonement' they now have a signature entry every year as well as their own parade in Galway.
To sample the atmosphere and whet your appetite for a visit to Ireland you can watch the following video of the 2009 St Patricks Day parade in Dublin here.