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A party for St Patrick; ULSTER GUIDE TO DROWNING YOUR SHAMROCK TOMORROW.

BELFAST

GIRLS ALOUD are headlining the city's sixth St Patrick's Day Festival in Donegall Square.

The girls, including Derry-born star Nadine Coyle, are making a whistlestop visit to Belfast and have even promised to wear sexy green knickers for the occasion.

The show is going ahead despite a funding crisis but also lining up for some craic with the crowds are Fame Academy stars Sinead Quinn and Malachi Cush. Irish pop group Six, Danny's Boys and E Male will also take to the stage outside City Hall. As well as the free show fans can also enjoy street theatre, Irish and African dancing and be entertained by jugglers, stilt-walkers and fire-eaters.

And for a more traditional take on March 17, the Waterfront Hall is holding a gala evening of Irish and Ulster Scots music, dance and poetry.

The event starts at 8pm and tickets cost between pounds 5 and pounds 12.50.

ARMAGH

REVELLERS in Armagh can enjoy live music from six bands on the stage at The Mall.

BBC Radio Ulster DJ Hugo Duncan will broadcast live from the event, which features country stars Al Grant and Jimmy Buckley among others.

The show starts at 1pm and also includes music from newcomer Mike Denvir and Guildford star Paul Donnelly.

Organisers are hoping the weather stays on the good side for the Mardi Gras-style carnival which has been backed by the Governor of Louisiana.

Children from 10 schools have prepared spectacular floats and costumes for the big day and will perform scenes from St Patrick's life.

The parade, which leaves The Mall at 3pm, is one of more than 30 events in Armagh's week-long festival.

International music star Sharon Shannon will play live tomorrow in the Armagh City Hotel along with The Miracles from 8.30pm.

And a cultural evening featuring Ulster-Scots music, song and dance will be held at the Armagh Orange Hall in The Mall.

ANTRIM

PARTYGOERS in Ballymena will be going green in more than one sense.

A free park-and-ride scheme to Slemish Mountain will take visitors to the slopes where St Patrick is believed to have been a slave.

Buses will leave the town's Ecos Centre on Broughshane Road and Buckna every 30 minutes from 9am to 4pm.

Jane Dunlop, from the Ecos Centre, said people would be able to enjoy the mountain without adding to the traffic.

She added: "Last year it was bedlam up there but we're hoping the free service will allow people to get to Slemish without the hassle of parking."

Visitors to the Ecos Centre can also enjoy a day of traditional harp, accordion and fiddle music. There is also a shamrock trail for children.

A performance from the Aughakillymaude Community Mummers takes place between 2.30pm and 4pm.

And hungry walkers will be able to tuck into typical Irish treats back in the Ecos Centre cafe.

DERRY

OUTDOOR music is at the heart of Derry's celebrations, with the Q102.9FM roadshow kicking off at 1.30pm.

Then the Emerald Ceili Band and local set dancers take over the entertainment in the Guildhall Square to warm up the crowd for a set from leading Irish musician Sharon Shannon and her band.

The internationally-acclaimed accordion player has played alongside stars such as Sinead O'Connor, Kirsty MacColl and Nigel Kennedy.

Mayor Shaun Gallagher said the show promised to make a great family day out.

He added: "I'm looking forward to seeing top-class performances that should keep the atmosphere going throughout the day."

FERMANAGH

FERMANAGH'S first official St Patrick's Day celebrations are being held in Enniskillen after a hugely successful trial run last year.

Almost 8,000 people flocked to the town then but organisers of the cross-community event promise it will be even bigger tomorrow.

Give My Head Peace stars Tim McGarry and Marty Reid will be guests of honour in the parade which starts at 2.30pm from the Hollyhill Road.

Tim, who plays Da, and Uncle Andy actor Marty will travel the streets in a traditional donkey cart while hundreds of children will be given free St Patrick's flags.

Music and dancing will be provided by Irish dancing troupe Shaylyn and the Emerald Revellers, a mumming group from Leitrim.

St Patrick's Project organiser Paul Murphy said they had been inundated with offers to perform on the big day.

He added: "It should really be a great day out, especially for the youngsters."

DOWN

MORE THAN 30,000 people are expected at Northern Ireland's biggest cross-community celebrations in Downpatrick.

Some 80 floats and 2,000 participants will parade from Downshire Hospital at 2.30pm.

The theme is A Celebration of European Myths, Legends and Landmarks and will honour the 10 new members of the European Union.

As well as music, dance and theatre, visitors can enjoy guided country walks and storytelling in the County museum.

St Patrick's Square will be the focus of the week-long festival, with the Shindig stage hosting live music from 11am to 6pm.

Down Arts Centre will hold a craft fair, while the Downpatrick Railway Museum will offer free steam train rides between 2pm and 5pm.

Peter Craig, Down District Council chairman, said: "It won't be St Patrick's Day anywhere else until it's St Patrick's Day in Downpatrick."

TYRONE

CELEBRATIONS in Tyrone will take a step back in time at the Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh.

Visitors can learn about the traditional American Wake, which features a dramatic re-enactment of one young man's move to the United States.

More than 1,000 people are expected to watch actors re-create the emotion and fear of emigrants searching for a better life.

The event is at 1pm and 3pm at Hughes House museum. The park is four miles north of Omagh on the A5 Strabane Road.

CAPTION(S):

GIRL POWER: Girls Aloud will perform at Belfast City Hall; HOST: Hugo Duncan; VENUE: Ecos Centre; MUSIC: Sharon Shannon; GUEST STAR: Uncle Andy; COLOURFUL: Down parade; ETCHED IN TIME: Folk Park characters
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 16, 2004
Words:991
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