Despite the showers, crowds lined the Main Street in Portarlington to watch the parade, with live music and hot food for sale on the streets beforehand, adding to a carnival atmosphere.
The parade began at 3.30pm from Station road, heading up Main Street to the square. On the viewing stand were Cllrs Ray Cribbin, Eddie Fitzpatrick, and Tom Mulhall, with Fr Michael Noonan, Rev Leslie Stephenson, Fr Tom Dooley PP and Fr Pat Hughes CC.
The parade was led by St Patrick himself, followed by St Patrick’s BNS with principal Pat Galvin, dubbed by MC Ciarán Dunne as the ‘pied piper’ as with his tin whistle he led the children in rousing traditional tunes.
This year’s theme was horses, clans and beauty queens, and the Teen Ireland Beauty Queen finalists and French Festival queen added plenty of style to the parade, along with several proud grey horses, one pulling a carriage, the others ridden by members of the local riding club.
Portarlington Scouts Club members picked up on the Clan theme, proudly holding up handmade family shields.
It was ‘Back to the Future’ for Portarlington Tidy Town’s humerous entry, complete with an original De Lorean car, proclaiming their national Tidy Towns win in 2020.
The young population of Port was evident in the many playschools taking part, Little Stars, An Oige and Silly Billies.
Young dancers were again stars of the show, with enthusiastic performances from Burbage’s Irish Dance Academy, the McDonald School of Irish Dancing, Showstoppers and Scoil Rince na Tíre.
The Presentation Primary School added a good burst of music, with accordionists and tin whistlers performing ‘The Star of the County Down’ particularly enjoyed by Rev Leslie Stephenson on the viewing stand, as he will begin his new role as Bishop there in May. The Comhaltas float also played wonderful traditional music.
Sporting organisations were represented well. Port’s Tae Kwando showed perfect timing for their displays. The rugby club, soccer club, GAA club and St Michael’s Athletic club all walked proudly. True Fitness and Irish Canoe Trails towed their displays of kayaks and canoes, appropriate considering the continuous rain.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Spongebob and Dora the Explorer delighted the children, thanks to Breslin’s Pharmacy, while more mature onlookers enjoyed the wonderful display of vintage cars.
Afterwards live music continued in the square, by Footsticks and Bang Bang. Elaine Hearty’s Showstoppers sdidn’t stop dancing either, performing outside Centra while fundraising for their trip to Disneyland Paris next month.