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St Patrick Festival In Downpatrick To Attract Thousands
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DOWNPATRICK’s  St Patrick’s Festival preparations are well on their way already to entertain and thrill the many thousands of visitors and tourists who converge on the historic town steeped in the ancestral roots of our Patron Saint. The parade itself is the climax of the festival and has been growing year after year, and is now the biggest festival parade outside Belfast.

It may be 1580 years since St Patrick landed on the shores of Ireland at the mouth of the Slaney River on the Strangford Lough, but his presence to this day is a still living experience that many enjoy through  festivals, folklore and religious life.

The festival frolics kick off from Monday 14th through to Sunday 20th March, a  seven day programme crammed full of opportunities to explore the life and times of our Patron Saint as well as a chance to participate in many events throughout the district.

Down District Council Chairman, Councillor Eamonn O’Neill launched the festival programme and said, “The seven day programme will appeal to everyone, with authentic experiences at key St Patrick locations in addition to music, dance and crafts at many venues across the district.

St Patricks Programme 2011 (This file is large – allow upload time)

“Down County Museum will host the conference ‘The Treasures of Post-Patrician Ireland’ on Monday 14th March while the world’s only permanent exhibition of St Patrick at The Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick will celebrate this special day with lots of entertainment for all to enjoy.

Launching the Downpatrick 2011 St Patrick'€™s Festival are Lewis and Christopher McMullan from Saul, Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Eamonn O' Neill, St Patrick aka Neil Cusack, UTV & U105 Radio personality Julian Simmons along, Evie McLaughlin from Downpatrick and Rebecca McMullan from Saul. They are pictured at the month of the Slaney River where St Patrick landed in Ireland in 431 AD.

“For the outdoor enthusiasts there will be the annual pilgrimage walk on Thursday 17th March from St Patrick’s Church, Saul, to Down Cathedral, while others may enjoy the St Patrick’s Day Walk through the country with a little surprise along the way,” he said.

Down Arts Centre has a hilarious night lined up with Tim ‘that’ll be twelve pounds fifty’ McGarry’s Irish History Lesson on Wednesday 16th March in The Great Hall at the Downshire Estate in Downpatrick. Tickets are bound to go quickly so book early to avoid disappointment.

At Down County Museum, Irish Dancing, Traditional and Folk Music and lots of performance acts will keep everyone smiling throughout the day. Don’t forget the Shamrock Steam Train will operate from the Inch Abbey Station to Downpatrick Station with wonderful views of Down Cathedral along the way.

Fabulous food and creative craft marquees will line the Festival Square from 10.00am to 5.00pm, offering that special treat to bring back home. On the festival stage will be U105 presenter, Maurice Jay and UTV’s Julian Simmons and special guests who will keep the crowds entertained from 1.00pm, as the cross-community carnival float parade meanders its way through the streets of Downpatrick starting at 2.30pm on the Ardglass Road.

The St Patrick Festival Blues will be a relaxing way to finish off the day, so take advantage of the series of Blues sessions across Downpatrick. Alternatively, there is a host of traditional entertainment at numerous venues throughout the district to savour the last of the St Patrick’s Festival 2011.

With details of over 40 events happening throughout the St Patrick’s Festival, including our Fringe Festival favourites, don’t forget to pick up a FREE copy of the Festival Programme. Contact the Festival Office on 028 4461 2233 or check out the full events listing online by visiting www.downdc.gov.uk