Campus Features

Marching Illini head to Ireland for St. Patrick's Parade

3/10/2014  8:00 am

On Thursday, March 13, a group of 325 Marching Illini students, parents and alumni will travel to Ireland, marking the band’s 7th trip to the Republic.

The Marching Illini will play in the official “St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” in Dublin on Monday, March 17. For the days leading up to the parade, the group will do a bit of sightseeing, also traveling to Limerick and Galway.

“We wanted to give our students this opportunity to study abroad and go overseas,” said Barry Houser, Director of the Marching Illini. “The people of Ireland are very welcoming, and it’s a natural connection with the huge St. Patrick’s Day Parade to take a trip to Ireland.”

In 1992, the Marching Illini was the first college band in the country to play in the parade. In the following years, the band aimed to take a trip every three of four years, but due to various conflicts, the last trip they took was in 2008.

In the past, the trip has been during spring break, but this year St. Patrick’s Day falls a few weeks before. Houser said he is grateful to professors and administrators for being flexible, allowing students to complete assignments before they leave.

The St. Patrick’s Day Festival is one of Ireland’s biggest tourist events, in some years drawing nearly one million visitors. The parade is the Marching Illini’s longest of the year both in terms of time and length. But, though the route is long, taking about two hours to complete, Houser said it’s “a very intimate setting.” The parade path weaves throughout Dublin on narrow lanes, with rows of buildings on both sides.

This year, the Marching Illini will have the privilege of being the last group in the parade. Houser said typically, the townspeople along the streets will follow behind the last act, dancing and celebrating until the end of the parade route. They have prepared to play a mixture of classic Illinois tunes and Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” during the parade itself. But, Houser said, if the mood seems right, they may also hold an impromptu concert for the people following behind with additional songs.

For up-to-date news about the Marchinig Illini as they travel to Ireland, follow them on Twitter @MarchingIllini.

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