ST PATRICK’S Day festivities will go virtual this year in Kilrush, with the community determined to look ahead to brighter days, while celebrating the local parades tradition that is so dear to local hearts.
A 12-strong committee involving business and community leaders has been working hard to ensure people still have the chance to celebrate, despite the Level 5 lockdown restrictions. Taking the theme of ‘Sending Grá’ to family and friends who are away from home on March 17, the virtual celebration aims to engage people of all ages.
The streets and shops have been decorated in the town and organisers are inviting people of all ages to submit entries to art and photography competitions and to send in photos of vintage vehicles that would normally be getting polished and ready to take to the streets for the parade. There’s also a Jerusalema Challenge for family bubbles and socially-distanced groups.
“The Kilrush St Patrick’s Day Parade has always been a big event for the whole of West Clare,” said Mary McKeown Lynch, a member of the organising committee and part of the Kilrush Business Alliance. “The only option last year was to cancel the parade, but this year we were determined to of offer people the opportunity to celebrate in a virtual way. We’ve gotten fantastic support and backing from everyone locally. We have all of the committee members from down the years still involved which is great. As we were getting organised, we identified a gap in terms of social and digital skills, and that has been filled by two young men who are volunteering with us and doing amazing work.”
One of the highlights of the festivities is a 30-minute video compiled from footage of parades dating back four decades. “We have some footage dating to the mid-‘80s,” said Mary, “and it’s thanks to Noel O’Brien who has been filming the parade for years. The video was put together by Chris McKiernan and it’s just another example of the huge community engagement we’ve had around the virtual celebration. People are just so glad to have a way to celebrate. The businesses in the town too have really gotten behind this and the shop windows are really colourful and the bunting and flags are up. People have also been decorating their homes and that’s lovely to see.”
The closing date for entries to all of the competitions is midnight next Sunday (March 14) and all details are available on the Kilrush St Patrick’s Day Facebook page. “There’s still time for everyone to get involved,” Mary said. “We will be making everything available for people to see on Facebook on St Patrick’s Day and the videos will also be on YouTube. Those will be well worth seeing because we’ve had 12 wonderful local artists involved in the music and singing, including Peg Morgan who is 100 years of age. She sand ‘The Three-Leaf Shamrock’ for us. So many great musicians, some professional and some students have been involved and given their time for free.”
“When all is said and done, St Patrick’s Day would be a big family event in Kilrush,” Mary added. “We would normally have loads of visitors and extended family coming from the likes of Limerick and Dublin and all over. Our message is that we are really looking forward to better days to come and to seeing them soon and to welcoming them back to Kilrush. We’re really hoping that the virtual event will be great way to connect with them this St Patrick’s Day.”