Over 40 events take place in five days, in Dublin, as the St. Patrick’s Festival brings a massive boost to the economy and shows the world the creativity and talent of Ireland. The best is yet to come, according to Susan Kirby, the festival’s Chief Executive

Five days, over 40 events, and over 500,000 visitors from across the globe in Dublin on March 17. Now almost 25-years-old Ireland’s national St. Patrick’s Festival brings in a whopping $82 million to Ireland’s economy and the growth and success of this celebration of the best of Irish seems set to continue.

Read more: St. Patrick’s Festival 2019 – Dublin’s “Greening the City”

Susan Kirby, the Chief Executive of the St. Patrick’s Festival told IrishCentral that while the Mardi Gras-like, loud, and colorful Dublin parade is always the pinnacle of the festival most visitors tend to plan their Irish vacation around the festival and often stay more than a week.

Colorful characters at the St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin.

Colorful characters at the St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin.

She explained that outside of the Irish audience the United Kingdom is the second largest with the United States coming in second and France and Germany next. The Festival has seen an increase in visitors from long-haul markets and anywhere where there’s been a change in visas, and more ease of access, such as Canada, India, and Australasia, Kirby also added. 

Read more: Dublin’s St. Patrick’s five-day family festival celebrates the Irish tradition of storytelling

She told IrishCentral the Festival’s US visitors are a little bit different to the others in that they're a diaspora visitor or an affinity diaspora and they have a relationship to Ireland.

"Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day is on the bucket list and by and large they actually stay quite a long time,” said Kirby.

Susan Kirby, Chief Executive of the St. Patrick's Festival.

Susan Kirby, Chief Executive of the St. Patrick's Festival.

Most US visitors who make it to the St. Patrick’s Festival might stay in Dublin three to five days but then tack on a vacation, traveling along the Wild Atlantic Way or visiting some of the top sites in Ireland’s Ancient East.

She added, “They're a very important market to the festival.”

However, no matter where in the world the St. Patrick’s Festival visitors come from Kirby recognizes that those who look on from afar, as the international media ascends on the festival, certainly have a huge interest in the idea of physically coming to Ireland “back to the mothership” for St. Patrick’s Day.

Dublin's five-day St. Patrick's Day Festival 2019

Making Paddy's Day plans? Check out St. Patrick's Festival Ireland's five-days of family fun in Dublin! Read more here - https://bit.ly/2IT6UXE

Publiée par IrishCentral.com sur Mardi 5 mars 2019

Civic-minded growth, involvement, and ambition

The last 24 years of the St. Patrick’s Festival has seen it grow from strength to strength but it is simply amazing how much planning goes into the five days extravaganza. Kirby said, “To create a festival the lead time is about two years or 18 months.”

Already the team has “all of the bands are booked for 2020” and recruitment has started for 2021.

“You’re in a kind of concurrent cycle of delivering what you're doing but planning ahead,” said Kirby.

Dancers in the St. Patrick's Festival Parade.

Dancers in the St. Patrick's Festival Parade.

It’s not just the event planning that’s going on all the while, its rehearsals, float making, fundraising, and community groups giving of their time and energy, which will culminate on the streets of Dublin or in a theater, after hours, weeks, and months of hard work.

Earlier this year Kirby has told the Irish Times she’d released a “mission statement” about growing the Festival to be a month-long event but in reality, the Festival already never sleeps. It is in a mode of constant growth and planning and it’s this community work and networking that Kirby relishes.

“One of the highlights of any festival will always be for me going to the community group's rehearsal in the run-up to the event and then actually seeing those people going by [in the parade] on the day because such work goes into it and they give so much of their time, they're enormously proud of the opportunity on our national day to participate,” said Kirby.

Does my bum look big in this? Amazing floats at the St. Patrick's Festival Parade.

Does my bum look big in this? Amazing floats at the St. Patrick's Festival Parade.

“It validates and it makes something authentic and I suppose the whole thing is interconnected in that to create a festival one must have one’s local citizens involved for it to then be of interest to anyone else or authentic in that way.”

That pride and display of civic awareness brings Kirby’s mind back to the first St. Patrick's Day parade in New York and Boston. These parades gave the Irish a chance to “create a presentation of themselves that really took hold and they positioned themselves.”

They lined out – the firefighters, cops, businessmen – and they presented their Irish community.

Kirby reminds us that St. Patrick’s Day tradition is very “community driven”. She added, “That’s its origins and we're sticking true to those origins.”

Read more: Guinness Supper Club at St Patrick’s Festival 2019

The idea that St. Patrick’s Festival is also very democratic is something of huge importance to Kirby.

The 2019 St. Patrick's Festival Grand Marshals Deirdre O'Kane and Jason Byrne.

The 2019 St. Patrick's Festival Grand Marshals Deirdre O'Kane and Jason Byrne.

She points out that the biggest event of the five-day festival, the parade is free.

“You don’t need to go through a door, into a venue, or have the ticket price – it’s should to shoulder, very democratic and available to everyone,” said Kirby.

“I hope that young people see themselves in the parade. I hope they see creativity ambition something that's bold and brave and fun and may inspire them to do something and opens up the world to them.”

Read more: The women behind St. Patrick's Day Festival 2019

Colorful story-tellers at St Patrick’s Day parade

The parade enjoyed by 500,000 on the ground and millions across the world on local news and internet streaming is certainly quite different from the stayed parades first seen in New and Boston. While Dublin’s annual line out includes police, army and city officials there’s certainly a wild creativity to the colorful, music-filled, carnival-style, event and according to some of the well-experiences US band members, there are no other parades like it in the world.

A marching band on the streets for the St. Patrick's Festival.

A marching band on the streets for the St. Patrick's Festival.

The 2019 St. Patrick’s Festival theme which runs through the entered five-day program is storytelling with everything from intimate story-telling trails to poetry events and major gigs. Kirby says that this has been one of the most popular themes chosen on record and the pitches for projects and ideas came flowing in.

“We've had such a response to it as a theme it's been incredible. I think as a theme it almost deserves its own strand, forever as an actual program strand cause it's been so strong.”

The whole festival celebrates the best of Ireland and that's what we're credited with as a nation, the ability to tell stories and create stories. It’s stories that connect us all.”

Read more: Cormac Begley & Friends play the St. Patrick’s Festival, Dublin