Fort Mill band marching through Irish history Sunday

posmundson@heraldonline.comMarch 16, 2013 

— The Fort Mill High School band on Sunday will help a half-million people in this historic city celebrate Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick.

The more than 150 band members will culminate nearly 15 months of fundraising and preparation by joining revelers along a 1.5-mile route through the heart of Ireland’s capital city. The route will take the Fort Mill band past some of Dublin’s most well-known and historic landmarks.

After the parade starts at noon local time – 8 a.m. EDT – the students will pass the Millennium Spire, a narrow, 398-foot structure that honors the 2000 millennium. They also will pass Trinity College, created in 1592; Christ Church Cathedral, the current Anglican Church founded around 1030; and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, whose current building dates to 1220.

They’ll also pass near vibrant, modern shopping areas that include Burger Kings, McDonald’s restaurants, and shops advertising American clothes.

“Tomorrow will be the highlight of the trip and the culmination and realization of all of our collective efforts to get us here,” Fort Mill band director John Pruitt said through email Saturday night.

The band, which left Fort Mill Wednesday, arrived in Dublin Saturday after touring other areas of Ireland. On the trip so far, the band has visited castles, enjoyed a medieval banquet, and taken in the Irish countryside.

While Pruitt said Ireland is all that he expected, “some of the students are surprised by how beautiful the country is and how surreal and exciting it is to actually be in Ireland.”

The parade is part of St. Patrick’s Festival, a five-day celebration billed as the largest of its kind in Ireland. This year, the festival organized The Gathering, an effort to encourage Irish supporters from around the world to participate.

With so many expected in town, this year’s parade is predicted by organizers to be the biggest ever in Ireland. Typically, a half million people line the 1.5-mile route.

The Fort Mill band was invited to participate in December 2011. The band members then worked to raise more than $120,000 to pay for the trip. Their efforts included raking yards, hauling scrap metal, and baking cookies.

“For all of our supporters, corporate sponsors and friends back at home, we thank you for giving these students this opportunity of a lifetime and we wish they could all be here to experience it with us Sunday,” Pruitt said.

Paul Osmundson •  803-329-4061

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