Video: Thousands help Derry 'Release the Moon' at Halloween finale

Seamus McKinney

RECORD-BREAKING crowds attended a carnival parade and fireworks display last night which brought the curtain down on Derry’s Halloween festival.

An estimated 30,000 people, most in fancy dress, packed the city centre and the banks of the Foyle for the grand finale of the festival.

While final figures are not yet available, it is believed up to 45,000 people attended festival events since Saturday. New attractions this year, including the Awakening the Walls performances on the city's walls and the Museum of the Moon artwork at the Guildhall, proved particularly popular.

Derry has built a huge reputation as the best centre for Halloween celebrations in Ireland. In 2015, the city was named as best Halloween destination in the world in a USA Today readers' poll. Earlier this year, the influential New York Times named the city as one of the world’s six “Spooky Travel Destinations” for Halloween.

It has also been suggested that the now well-established carnival came about partly through a 1985 bomb scare. Businessman Brian Doherty revealed that a fancy-dress party in his bar spilled out onto the streets because of a security alert.

The businessman said he was unsure if this was the first major Halloween celebration in the city but added: "But what I do know is that the following year everyone was doing fancy dress".

Street performers were joined last night by circus and arts entertainers for the annual carnival parade which this year adopted the theme Releasing the Moon.

Derry mayor, Maolíosa McHugh said this year’s carnival was a huge success.

“It was a stunning sight to see so many local people and visitors thronging the streets of our city and district to take in the comprehensive programme of events on offer which gets bigger and better every year,” he said.

The celebration was just one of many across Ireland as revellers marked Halloween, the roots of which lie in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.

Ballycastle, Co Antrim, hosted its own Halloween parade, complete with a fireworks display at the harbour.

Navan Centre and Fort in Co Armagh held a 'Little Spooks' event for children, including a vampire-hunting quest.

In Co Wexford, families gathered at Hook Lighthouse to hear stories and learn about Samhain customs.

And Shandon in Co Cork celebrated the festival with the Dragon of Shandon - an 11-metre-long puppet which was paraded through the streets.

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