It was all smiles at the Town Hall on Friday night as the people behind the winning floats in this year’s Kilkenny St Patrick’s Day parade were honoured for boosting the tourism and cultural potential of their home county.
Mayor David Fitzgerald hosted the event and Cllr Malcolm Noonan joined him in lavishing praise on the five groups selected from a total of seventy-eight entries for the big event. No less than thirty-eight GAA clubs from around the county had participated in the parade, the special theme of which was “Celebrating Kilkenny’s Gaelic Games, Heritage and Spirit”.
The Mayor paid tribute to everyone who had worked so hard to make the celebration of the Patron Saint’s Feast Day a “thumping success”. The 10,000 plus crowd included people from across the globe, who had joined locals to watch a parade that the Mayor recalled was “one of the most colourful and spectacular ever held in the city”. The Mayor emphasised that while five groups were to receive awards from the Parade Committee for their outstanding entries, all the floats this year were excellent and worthy of the highest praise.
Even a hail shower on the day failed to deter the throng of revellers and well wishers. The singing, dancing, miming, and good-humoured banter that swept Kilkenny represented a vindication of community spirit in these recessionary times, he told the gathering.
Malcolm Noonan said he was confident next year’s event would be equally innovative and entertaining and would reflect yet again the abundance of creative talent, local patriotism, and community enterprise in the county.The Mayor personally presented a beautifully craft piece of Jerpoint Glass to each of the winning groups.
The Noreview Folk Museum in Bennettsbridge scooped the award for Best Community Entry. Seamus Lawlor’s world renowned collection of more than 12,000 exhibits, some dating to the Stone Age, received warm accolades from the parade committee. Seamus said he felt privileged to be singled out for mention, and that he intended to continue showcasing Ireland’s multi-faceted heritage at his museum that stands on Cannon Hill. He thanked the large contingent of Bennettsbridge folk who had assisted him on the day, stressing that the award, and recognition, was theirs also.
Most Creative Float was the Callan one, ingeniously mounted by the Abhainn Ri Festival group. It had all the appeal and professional panache of a top-notch Arts Week-style presentation and was among the most photographed float in Kilkenny on the day. Children loved the float, especially the bizarre array of masked giants and hobgoblins that fanned out from it across the parade route, making the City Streets their stage.
The theme for the Best Rural Float had been the much-loved Fr. Ted, recalling the legendary TV priest whose comic escapades introduce us to the lighter side of religion. A lot of planning and creative energy had gone into the arrangement.
Best GAA Club float was St Patrick’s, Ballyraggett. Apart from the superb artistry of its presentation, the sheer number of trophies displayed by the group attested to its long and proud record of triumph on the pitch, including a spectacular All-Ireland victory.
Most Entertaining float winner was another sporting group, the Dicksboro GAA, which had featured a comical “blonde” large bosomed cross-dresser in fishnet tights and a low cut dress that would not, as somebody remarked at the awards function, have been tolerated in the days of ArchBishop John Charles McQuaid. The float also had a “Frankenstein Bride” that many spectators at the parade had, paradoxically, found attractive.
A special award went to Kilkenny auctioneer George Candler, a long-time friend of the parade who, in addition to his upfront backing for the hallowed tradition, had also quietly helped behind the scenes to ensure that the City was always seen at its best on March 17th.
The Mayor thanked the Order of Malta and the Gardai who had played their own essential parts on the day, and he highlighted the crucial role of parade organiser Marian Flannery, a woman of “phenomenal organizational ability and perception” without which, he opined, such an ambitious and immensely popular spectacle as this year’s event might not have materialised.
Other names on everyone’s lips at the award function were the Parade Grand Marshall, Brian Hogan, captain of the 2011 Kilkenny Senior Hurling team, and 92 year-old Pat Shortis, a pillar of the community who gave some wonderful renditions of old favourites on his Saxophone during the parade.