A St. Patrick’s Day Parade band trip with the Purdue “All American” Marching Band!

A St. Patrick’s Day Parade band trip with the Purdue “All American” Marching Band!

A St. Patrick’s Day Parade Band Trip is an iconic opportunity for a Marching Band. As the one national holiday celebrated in more countries around the world than any other, on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone wants to be Irish. And one of the very best St. Patrick’s Day Parade band trips for a marching band is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland’s capital!  Picture it:  Dublin city centre is closed to traffic, 500,000 people line the streets, dressed “Head to Toe” in green. The sun is beaming in the sky. In the distance you can hear the hum of music and the sound of 3,000 pairs of feet…it’s St. Patrick’s Day and it’s time for the world-famous St. Patrick’s Festival Parade! This past spring, the amazing Purdue “All-American” Marching Band took on the challenge and headed to Ireland for an unforgettable performance and trip with Music Travel Consultants.

Established in 1886, the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band has become an icon of Purdue University. Directed by Jay S. Gephart, the 389-member band is the largest in the Big 10 and one of the largest in the nation. This world-renowned band performs at each home football game and travels to concerts and festivals around the world. It offers performance opportunities for instrumentalists, percussionists, color guard members, dancers, and twirlers. The band marches with all flags of the Big Ten Conference member schools. Additionally, students can join the Big Bass Drum Crew by completing an audition that includes meeting ROTC athletic skill standards. With a rich history of band “firsts,” innovation and creativity are key for this band.  It performs a new halftime show at every home game. Purdue was the first marching band in the nation to break military ranks on the football field to form a letter – – the Block “P”.

Last March, Music Travel Consultants Tour Directors met the band at Purdue University on a Sunday in West Lafayette, Indiana. The transportation scheme had to be just right for a group of more than 350 passengers. Using carefully planned flights and ground transport, the band (and its signature Big Bass Drum) arrived safely in Ireland’s Clare/Limerick area the next day.  And its adventure began!

The first stop was the stunning Cliffs of Moher. Situated on the Atlantic Ocean and bordering the Burren region, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights. Nearly five miles long, and standing over 750 feet at their highest point, the Cliffs boast one of the most amazing views in Ireland. On a clear day, the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay, as are the valleys and hills of Connemara.

From the Cliffs of Moher, the band drove through the landscape of the Burren Region. It is one of Ireland’s six National Parks and is rich with historical and archeological sites, dozens of megalithic tombs, portal dolmens, forts, and caves.  It is also famous for rock climbing.

Next, the band visited the Poulnabrone dolmen (meaning, “hole of sorrows”), a portal tomb situated on the high Burren plateau, in County Clare. Dating back to the Neolithic period, most likely between 4200 BC – 2900 BC., the dolmen consists of a twelve-foot, thin, slab-like, tabular capstone supported by two slender portal stones, which lift the capstone 1.8m (6ft) from the ground, creating a chamber. This dolmen has been determined to have been the burial site of more than 20 adults and children.

After a full morning, the band ate lunch and headed to its three hotels for some rest.  In the late afternoon, the village of Adare hosted a welcome reception for band representatives.  Dinner and a good night’s rest were enjoyed by all.

Tuesday morning, the group headed to Galway – the fourth most populous city in the Republic of Ireland. Galway is also known as a college town, home to the National University of Ireland Galway School of Humanities,  the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and the National University of Ireland Galway College of Engineering and Informatics.  The Purdue University “All-American” Marching Band gave its first performance in Galway at Eyre Square, in John F. Kennedy Memorial Park.

After much-deserved free time and lunch on Galway’s High Street (shopping street) and Quay Street, the band headed to its hotels to freshen up for a whimsical Medieval Banquet in the 15th-century castles of Bunratty and Knappogue.  Traveling back in time, the Purdue band joined in the merriment and song while feasting over a great banquet. Entertainers played the harp and violin, and the spell cast by castle staterooms and surroundings made the group feel like Irish Ladies and Lords!

Following breakfast Wednesday morning, Purdue departed for County Cork, first visiting Blarney Castle & Woolen Mills. Built in 1446, Blarney Castle is one of Ireland’s oldest and strongest fortresses.  Famous for its Blarney stone, that Stone of Eloquence is believed to have the power to bestow the gift of eloquence on all those who kiss it.  The Castle gardens cover 60 acres of land and include a water garden, fern garden, and poison garden, all open to visitors.

Lunch was at Blarney Castle before Purdue headed to Cork, the second-largest city in Ireland after Dublin. The band got a chance to explore the shops along Saint Patrick’s Street, grab a coffee, and take in a view of the River Lee. After a great dinner at Treacy’s West Hotel, they headed back to their hotels in the Clare/Limerick area for the night.

Purdue was on the road again Thursday for a visit to the Rock of Cashel. Possibly the most photographed site in Ireland, this landmark towers over the town of Cashel from its perch on a 200-foot high outcrop of limestone.  The Rock of Cashel was once the seat of the Kings of Munster. St. Patrick visited the rock in 450, and Brian Boru has crowned the 1st high King of Ireland there in the tenth century. Granted to the church in the twelfth century by the O’Brien clan, the Rock became the seat of the Archbishop of Cashel. It was during this period that Cormac’s Chapel was built. In 1647, Cromwellian forces under the leadership of Lord Inchiquin ransacked the Rock. Today, impressive stone walls enclose a round tower, a cathedral, a twelfth-century Romanesque chapel, and high crosses. The Gothic cathedral dates back to the thirteenth century and attached to it is the palace of the Archbishop of Cashel. Cormac’s chapel, smaller in structure, displays some typical Romanesque features while the Hall of the Vicar’s Choral, at the entrance to the Rock, is a fifteenth-century house. The Vicar’s Choral has been recently restored, and its basement houses a small museum of artifacts found on the site. The buildings on the site have witnessed many important events in Irish history.

Next, the band traveled to Kilkenny, often referred to as “the Marble City”. It is the most interesting and best-preserved of the medieval Irish cities, now home to over 26,000 people. Characterized by many beautifully restored buildings and winding slipways, it is small and compact, yet full of fascinating historical buildings and contemporary shops, design galleries and restaurants. One of the most instantly recognized buildings in Ireland is Kilkenny Castle, an important site since the 12th century. Here, Purdue gave its second performance, after marching in full uniform from Watergate Theatre through the center of town to its famous castle!

The Purdue "All-American" Marching Band performing at the Kilkenny Castle.
The Purdue “All-American” Marching Band playing at Kilkenny Castle.

After performing, the band packed up, and set its sights for Dublin, the largest city and capital of Ireland. Located near the midpoint of Ireland’s east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey and the center of the Dublin Region, it was founded as a Viking settlement over a thousand years ago. Since medieval times, Dublin has been Ireland’s primary city. Today, it is an economic, administrative and cultural center for Ireland and has one of the fastest-growing populations of any European capital city!

On Friday, near Dublin, the group visited County Wicklow, known as “the Garden of Ireland,” and Glendalough, a Christian monastic site, full of stone churches, history, archaeology, and wildlife.  That evening, Purdue jumped into a rip-roaring night of traditional Irish song and dance at Taylors Three Rock-Irish Night!  As Purdue feasted on a tasty selection of quality Irish food, the resident band and professional Irish dancers provided breathtaking performances and great entertainment!

After a night’s rest, the Purdue University “All-American” Marching Band was ready for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade! Starting at Parnell Square and marching through the heart of Dublin, Purdue greeted a crowd of 500,000 spectators on the Irish National Holiday! For two hours, the band participated in an awesome display of creative talent as the national St. Patrick’s Festival Parade wound its way through the Dublin city center. International and Irish marching bands joined performers, dancers and street theatre companies to present a wonderfully entertaining parade, truly a piece of moving theater.  The colorful costumes,  flamboyant performances and outstanding musical talent were top-notch! Crowds welcomed the Purdue University “All-American” Marching Band with cheers and smiles. Purdue’s band dazzled spectators and gave a world-class performance for the people of Ireland. This was an unforgettable day for all.

After a great parade, the band enjoyed the rest of the day at leisure, savoring the atmosphere of Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day.

On Sunday morning, it was time to pack up and head for home. But, all of a sudden, the unpredictable happened: bad weather  CANCELLED Purdue’s charter flights to the USA! Music Travel Consultants and the band were notified that their flights would be delayed until the next day.  Fortunately, MTC Tour Directors secured overnight lodging and meals for the group stranded by Mother Nature.  It definitely paid off to have Music Travel Consultants Tour Directors on-site, and with assistance from them and their local agents,  Purdue travelers got an extra day in Ireland.  It did not cost them a cent.

The Purdue “All American” Marching Band arrived in West Lafayette the following day, cherishing its experiences and its extraordinary opportunities for personal growth. Music Travel Consultants was honored to be a part of this grand trip.

“For years, Music Travel Consultants has provided our program with a level of service and dedication you usually can’t find with many businesses in today’s world. And our trip to Ireland was no different. Thank you for helping to make this trip unforgettable!”

Jay S. Gephart , Marching Band Director of The Purdue University “All-American” Marching Band

Members of The Purdue "All-American" Marching Band posing with the World's Largest Drum.
Members of The Purdue “All-American” Marching Band posing with the World’s Largest Drum.

Is your band ready for a trip to Ireland and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with Music Travel Consultants?

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