As a semblance of normality pervades and the recent easing of public health restrictions gives cause for future optimism, confirmation that the Croi na hÉireann Festival will grace Athlone and its environs is a significant boost as the local community prepares to embrace our national feast day.
To take place from March 16 to March 20 inclusive, the showpiece attraction of the five day festival will be the hosting of the St Patrick’s Day parade which is expected to draw large a attendance and create an atmosphere not witnessed along the streets of Athlone in three years.
The parade will take place on Sunday, March 20, but prior to its hosting, there are numerous activities certain to prove popular - the committee working diligently to ensure a Croi na hÉireann Festival that appeals to all age groups.
Croi na hÉireann activities confirmed
‘Rise The Dust’ will set the Irish music tone as they play a ‘ceili mór’ for a three hour duration on Friday, March 18.
A trout fishing competition on Lough Ree on Friday, March 18, will appeal to angling enthusiasts, with competition certain to be to the fore when the Philadelphia Fire and Police Departments provide the opposition for Westmeath Minotaurs in an American Football contest in Pairc Chiaráin on Saturday, March 19.
‘Paddy’s Rambles’, a series of organised walking tours will include landmarks and routes of local historical interest, while children are encouraged to participate in a ‘greenway scavenger hunt’ from the Whitegates to Garrycastle GAA clubhouse.
An exhibition of creative works from local artists will dot the landscape for the festival duration as live music wafts through the many bars for which Athlone is synonymous.
With more activities to be confirmed in due course, the Croi na hÉireann Festival will culminate with the parade on Sunday, March 20, the theme for which will focus on the centenary anniversary of the foundation of the State.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, Croi na hÉireann Festival committee chairperson, John Henson, noted the parade theme, appealing to local business representatives and community members to give of their support to the five day festival.
“As a nation we have just emerged from a sustained period of oppression from an outside force that was Covid-19 where our freedom of movement, freedom of assembly in large groups and for the most part a lack of freedom in our own decision making abilities was taken from us so there are remarkable similarities between what must have been the mood of the entire Irish Nation 100 years ago and what it is like now.
“As always we would appeal for two scarce commodities - money and volunteers.
“While we realise that the past two years have placed a significant financial burden on the economy in general and the emphasis on shopping local to support the Athlone business community where possible was something we, quite appropriately, heard repeatedly.
“Now, we would appeal for support from both local businesses and community members. In some cases a monetary contribution may not be possible but we can still be supported with the adoption of a positive attitude towards this year’s hosting of the Croi na hEireann Festival,” Mr Henson asserted.
Affording his support for the five day festival Westmeath County Council Cathaoirleach, Cllr Frankie Keena, stated that it was now the intention of the organising committee to host Croi na hÉireann on an annual basis.
“It is their intention to make the Athlone Croi Na hÉireann Festival an annual event in the calendar year and the opportunity is here with us now to build on the success of the fabulous inaugural festival back in 2019.
“This year we will have entertainment for all age groups taking place over the festival’s duration and it is great to be part of a very energetic committee whose main focus is to bring enjoyment to both young and old and at the same time generate support to help local businesses
“Our door is always open if someone would like to get involved, help out or host an event over this extended bank holiday weekend.
“This will be the first festival to be hosted in Athlone since the easing of public health restrictions. Our community needs a lift and we hope to provide this for them. The parade, on March 20, will be the finale of the festival and a spectacle of amazing floats, marching bands and community groups is guaranteed.
“At this stage we are extending an invitation to local groups, organisations and companies who would like to participate in the parade with the relevant entry forms now available,” Cllr Keena concluded.