RECORD numbers are expected to visit Kilkenny's art festival over the next week.
Organisers say attendance at shows and exhibitions on the first weekend indicates that up to 80,000 people will have visited by the time the 10-day event finishes next Sunday.
Festival-goers can enjoy Australian-based Bedlam Oz, who use giant sliver slinkies; Spanish-based Sarruga, who will grab attention with giant mechanical structures and a 50ft-long creature called the Leech; and the English team of the Men in Coats.
There will be a parade themed the Emperor of Dreams next Sunday, which promises to create a surreal world of enormous fish wheeling through the streets, along with colourful dragons and spiders.
Festival manager Maureen Kennelly said this year's event was proving hugely popular, and a number of shows had already been booked out. An extra show of the Beckett Trilogy had also been arranged.
The main talking point of the festival is a series of paintings including one by world-renowned Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein, who took an old photograph of Adolf Hitler surrounded by children and replaced it with the Madonna and Child surrounded by SS officers.
Heinwein's paintings are hanging in a number of buildings around the city, including Kilkenny Castle, National Irish Bank and the Watergate Theatre.
Funding for the festival is the highest to date with the organisers receiving more than £400,000.
Arts Council funding has increased to £185,000.
The festival relies heavily on sponsorship and revenue from ticket sales, and is now worth £5m to the local economy.