DUBLIN (AP) — Never mind the fickle Irish weather. A chilly, damp Dublin celebrated St. Patrick's Day with artistic flair anyway Sunday as the focal point for a weekend of Irish celebrations worldwide.
More than 250,000 revelers braved the occasionally snowy, sleety skies to line the streets for the traditional holiday parade, a 3-kilometer (2-mile) jaunt through the city's heart involving performers from 46 countries.
Unusually, 8,000 tourists in town for the festivities led this year's procession in a "people's parade." Many donned leprechaun costumes or deployed banners and flags of their home nations or U.S. states, with the Texans making the biggest impression as they sported "Happy St. Paddy's Day, Y'All!" T-shirts.
One marcher, a 22-year-old engineer from Calgary, Canada, defiantly showed it wasn't so nippy at all — by doing the hour-long walk shirtless, with only a painted-on shamrock covering his chest.
"It's not cold!" Oliver Feniak declared as he, like many in the leisurely paced 2 1/2-hour parade, stopped to shake hands with onlookers standing five-deep on O'Connell Bridge spanning the River Liffey.
Sunday's decision to put tourists in the vanguard was connected to a year-long tourism promotion called The Gathering that is organizing hundreds of clan reunions nationwide in hopes of boosting the economy. That's sorely needed in an Ireland struggling with 14 percent unemployment, heavy emigration and a household-debt crisis following the 2008 collapse of its Celtic Tiger boom.
St. Patrick's Day always marks the start of Ireland's full-court press for tourists. Since 1997 Dublin has expanded the holiday into a multi-day festival featuring special children's playgrounds, street amusement parks, concerts and walking tours. Irish President Michael D. Higgins is hosting a nationally televised TV show Monday night featuring many of Ireland's top artists and musicians, including Bono and Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney.
"We cherish the creativity, community spirit and rich culture for which we, as a nation, are renowned," Higgins said in a speech after the parade. "I have said on many occasions that while the experience of the so-called Celtic Tiger failed to live up to the best versions of Irishness, we have not been failed by our artists. In fact, our artists are a huge moral resource and great reputational asset for Ireland."
St. Patrick's Day is being marked in skylines across the world as part of a global campaign to floodlight landmarks green at night. This year the pyramids of Giza, the leaning tower of Pisa, Niagara Falls, and the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio are among dozens of iconic spots going green for the occasion.
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