Being on the edge of a cliff, wind pushing you side to side and being pelted by icy rain with your clothes getting soaked, you can’t help but stay in awe of the sheer drop to the Atlantic Ocean. The Cliffs of Moher were my favorite part of Ireland.
The preparation going into sending nearly 300 students, staff, family and friends across the “pond” to the Republic of Ireland took over a year. With seven groups and multiple flights, members of the Lumberjack Marching Band were globally scattered to make their way to Dublin, Ireland to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Touring the countryside, cities and sites, this trip proved to be one I will never forget. The Cliffs of Moher in the Burren Region of County Clare were amazing, dotted with dozens of species of birds, including Puffins, the Cliffs are a huge attraction for anyone visiting the country.
The city of Galway is beautifully clad with shops, pubs and medieval walls. With a rich history ranging from fierce battles to bountiful festivals, Galway is also home to several colleges, bringing the younger generation into the already lively city. There, the River Corrib meets the Atlantic and is dotted with remnants of a wall that surrounded the city. The Spanish Arch is part of the wall representing trade with Spain and was used to protect ships from being looted.
Limerick was the next stop and is lined by the River Shannon. The city houses several beautiful cathedrals, including St. Mary’s, coffee shops and pubs. King John’s Castle is a major landmark of the city. Vivid murals were painted on buildings and when the water is at a certain level you can read “it will rise with the moon,” on the wall of the riverbank.
Travelling on, we arrived to Blarney Castle in Cork County, home to the Blarney Stone. I and many others took part in the tradition of hanging upside down to kiss the stone for good luck. The castle was complete with a dining area and “murder hole” above the entrance to keep out intruders.
We moved on to the Rock of Cashel. This historic cathedral was often mistaken for a castle. The rock wall surrounding the cathedral set on a high hill made the scene almost magical and looked as though it could have come out of a J. K. Rowling novel.
Celtic crosses scattered across the surrounding cemetery and historical markers and art could be found at every turn. “Céad Míle Fáilte,” or “a hundred thousand welcomes,” is a traditional saying in the Irish Gaelic language. This was how the LMB was welcomed to Dublin. The city was full and green in preparation for their its renowned festival for St. Patrick’s Day.
Green lights were projected onto every major building, vendors were on every corner selling Irish scarves, hats and accessories, and security measures promised a safe holiday for everyone in attendance.
Finally, it was parade day. We woke up to snow flurries that continued on and off throughout the day. As the parade commenced, we were cheered on by millions of people, giving high fives to children, big and small. We curved through the city playing the “SFA Fight Song,” the “Yellow Rose of Texas” and a rendition of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”
After the parade, we went to the Guinness Warehouse and Brewery to perform for those enjoying the available tours. We were joined by a lucky leprechaun fan who helped conduct the band. We topped off the performance by singing the school song with our axes held high.
The next day, we found out that the LMB had won the “Sectional Award for the Best Large Band” in the parade. Considering we weren’t even aware of the contest, we were beyond honored to win.