STRAKONICE, Czech Republic (Reuters) - Bagpipers from 18 nations marched through the Czech town of Strakonice on Friday in a colourful parade to kick off the International Bagpipe Festival.

Running almost every other year since 1967, the four-day festival includes concerts, lectures and exhibits and organisers bill it as a meeting point for musicians, dancers and singers from around Europe.

"We love the atmosphere here," said Alvaro Rua Manso, leader of the Spanish band Nova Era, which is making its sixth appearance in Strakonice, a town in the south of the country with long bagpiping tradition.

A record year is expected with about 1,100 performers and 20 different bands.

(Reporting by Jiri Skacel, writing by Jason Hovet)

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