Thousands of people from across the North West will tomorrow gather to paint the town green as St Patrick’s Day celebrations get under way.
Events are being staged in Londonderry, Limavady, Strabane and across Donegal with local authorities, pubs and clubs bracing themselves for a weekend of pageantry and revelling.
In Derry there will be a Rio de Janeiro flavour as around 1,000 people from 90 different community groups form the city’s largest ever St Patrick’s Day spring carnival parade in the city centre.
And even the dogs from the street will be getting involved, with the Rainbow Rehoming Centre dressing their canines up in green tabby bows for the march through the city.
Family-friendly events, concerts and dancing will surround the parade from 12.30pm.
Organised by the North West Carnival Initiative, the Voyage of Discovery themed event will feature colourful floats, music and dance. It will commemorate the city’s aviation and maritime history, with Amelia Earhart and St Colmcille among the famous characters making an appearance.
The theme links into the city’s journey as it prepares for the Clipper Homecoming Maritime Festival in June and the UK City of Culture year in 2013.
The Rio de Janeiro dancers and pageants element is linked to the experience of Londonderry’s Clipper entry during a stopover in the Brazilian city.
A traditional Irish music theme will also be intertwined as Derry gears up to host the All Ireland Fleadh in 2013.
For many the celebrations will start when Ireland’s rugby team take on England in the Six Nations tournament at Twickenham.
The game will be screened live at the City of Derry Rugby club in Drumahoe and also on the Big Screen in the city centre.
The Walled City Market will also be taking place against the backdrop of the Big Screen on Waterloo Place.
Activities running both before and after the parade in this area will include games of bungee rugby and full swing rides.
A tent will host a themed Olympic Torch Relay and Clipper Craft workshop in preparation for both festivals this summer.
Traditional music, food and activities will also be on offer at Shipquay Street, the Peace Bridge, the Craft Village and Ebrington.
Alongside the council programme there will be a range of events including Irish language Week at venues across the city, already having begun on March 6.
The Gasyard will tomorrow host a morning of arts and crafts, traditional entertainment, face painting, ceili and sports events for varying ages.
Culturlann Ui Chanain will host a St Patrick’s Day shindig starting early in the day and leading onto a ceili house.
Parades will also take place in Strabane, Buncrana, Moville and Letterkenny, with Limavady also hosting a series of themed events.