Belfast Telegraph

Carnival of colour as Belfast turned into Rainbow City for St Patrick's Day

By Amanda Ferguson

Belfast was transformed into a Rainbow City for the annual St Patrick's Day parade and concert.

Lord Mayor Arder Carson led the colourful parade from City Hall. The procession made its way through the city centre to Custom House Square for a free outdoor concert.

The family atmosphere, helped along by Beat Carnival performers, Irish dancers, cheerleaders, singers and pipe bands, was enjoyed by thousands of people from across Northern Ireland and many visitors to the city too.

Mr Carson said he was "proud to lead St Patrick's Day celebrations on a day all about community".

Tourists marvelled at the Rainbow City-themed spectacle unfolding to celebrate the Patron Saint of Ireland - as well as the unusually warm and sunny conditions.

Mary Dougall and Grace McGregor from Glasgow said they would never miss St Patrick's Day in Ireland.

"We've been to Letterkenny and Dublin and this year it's Belfast," Grace added.

"I love St Patrick's Day in Ireland - everyone in Belfast is so fun."

Ms Dougall remarked on the transformation the city had undergone over the last decade.

"We like Belfast," she said. "We have noticed the change in it so much over the years. The shopping is great. It's a great place for tourists."

Vicky Caddy from the Open House Festival Choir, led by singer Katie Richardson, spoke of her joy at the cross-community feel to the day.

"We have been dancing and singing the karaoke classics that everybody absolutely loves," she said. "I think St Patrick's Day brings lots of people out from all different backgrounds and I am delighted to be part of it."

Jane Davies from Belfast brought her family into the city centre to sample the carnival atmosphere.

"We do the parade and concert every year," she said. "It's a lovely day."

Claire Boyle from Toome was paying her first visit to Belfast for St Patrick's Day with her children, Aoife, Conleth and Grace.

"The weather is great," she said. "We love celebrating St Patrick's Day somewhere, so we've landed here."

There were blue skies overhead and plenty of sunshine yesterday for the outdoor concert at Custom House Square, which saw former X Factor winner Ben Haenow and former Westlife star Brian McFadden take to the stage.

Irish dance group Innova, The Belfast Boys' Model Drummers and folk group Altagore also helped revellers enjoy the day.

Parades and celebrations were also held in Armagh, Downpatrick, Enniskillen, Newry, Omagh and Londonderry, where the theme this year was Land of the Little People.

In a separate demonstration, the Apprentice Boys of Derry paraded for the first time on St Patrick's Day. Organised by the No Surrender Parent Club to mark its 150th anniversary, marchers came from the Fountain Estate into the city centre for a parade around the war memorial.

Meanwhile, at Saint Patrick's Church in Pennyburn, Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown reminded mass-goers that "the shamrock is there to be preached, not just drowned" and that "St Patrick is not just about a green White House and a green Taj Mahal".

"Patrick did not play on differences but knew that faith could build bridges rather than walls," he said.

In Downpatrick, the "home of the patron saint", there was a spectacular cavalcade of floats, bands and fancy dress for their traditional parade. In Armagh, the theme for this year's procession was Feasts and Wild Beasts and the day was part of a larger festival which runs until March 20.

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