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THE GREEN MILES; Thousands ready to line route of city St Patrick's Day Parade.

Byline: FIONNUALA BOURKE

IT'S party time in the Midlands today as Birmingham stages its world-famous St Patrick's Parade.

Tens of thousands of revellers are expected to flock to the city to see one of the biggest and most colourful celebrations outside of Dublin and New York.

Last year more than 130,000 people turned out to honour the Irish patron saint and enjoy the craic.

And with the spectacular array of entertainment being presented at this year's festival, it looks like attendance figures could top that.

This year revellers can join in the fun at the festival's original home - Digbeth - also known as the Irish Quarter.

The parade itself will kick off at 11.30am from Camp Hill, taking two hours to pass through the streets to the Bullring and back down into Digbeth.

As well as the usual appearances of floats, bands and Irish dancing, revellers will also be able to enjoy the funfair, stalls and donkey rides.

If that isn't to your taste, you could always try a pint in one of the area's many fine bars, which are sure to be full of life during the day and night.

The White Swan and The Old Crown are just two of the popular traditional Irish pubs that will be opening their doors to visitors and offering a warm welcome to all.

And if you do want to enjoy a drink, you don't have to worry about the car this year, because there's no need to bring it.

Travel West Midlands has teamed up with parade organisers to offer special-value tickets which are valid all day and most of the night.

Another reason to leave the car at home is the number of road closures during the day. Details are available at website www.birmingham.gov.uk

During the festivities some revellers may be asked: 'How do you know you're Irish?'

It's a question being posed by Green With Envy, a special three-year project examining the Birmingham Irish community's identity and health.

This year the Bullring joined in the early festivities when thousands enjoyed entertainment staged there yesterday. The Killeshin Band kicked off the show and traditional Irish dancers stunned shoppers with their moves.

In the evening there was much merriment when bar tenders raced through the streets carrying pints in the Digbeth Derby Dash.

As well as the Sunday parade, a host of other activities are planned in the city for St Patrick's Day itself on Wednesday.

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CELEBRATORY MOOD: Tommy Beacall with Charlie (left) and Jade Clayton
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 14, 2004
Words:421
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