Council invests 20k in River and Food Festival

A sum of €20,000 has been allocated by Athlone Municipal District for this year's River and Food Festival.

Addressing the district meeting on Tuesday this week, director of services Barry Kehoe said the investment aims to make the festival a major international event that could "put Athlone on the map".

Mr Kehoe told councillors that a larger annual festival could provide many benefits for Athlone. He said all tourist towns in Ireland have a large festival that draws people from both around Ireland and from abroad, and that the River and Food Festival could do as much for Athlone as the All-Ireland Drama Festival has in recent years.

The committee involved in the planning of the festival this year requested a €20,000 investment from the council in order to hire an expert to help organise the event.

This individual will take care of the financial side of the festival, while also providing analysis once it is finished to see how it can be improved and expanded for the following year.

Mr Kehoe said it is hoped that the festival will become self financing in the future, and that the council can gradually reduce its level of investment until it does.

Mayor Aengus O'Rourke (FF ) said he is delighted to see the level of commitment the festival committee is showing to the event. He said he hopes the festival becomes an event of that attracts people to the town, increasing the tourism offering already present.

Fine Gael councillor John Dolan said the festival is "exactly what Athlone needs". He referred to the River Shannon as a great but under utilised resource.

Councillor Paul Hogan (SF ) referenced the success of the Cork Food Festival in bringing people from inside and outside Ireland to the city. If staged correctly, he said, the River and Food Festival has the potential to do the same for Athlone.

Fianna Fáil's Frankie Keena encouraged all the people of Athlone and its environs to embrace the festival this year in order to ensure its success.

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