National pride was most evident this past weekend as the local community united in full support of the five day Croi na hÉireann Festival which culminated in a well attended St Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday afternoon.
Complete with eye-catching floats and entries from local sports and cultural organisations, the parade was awash with vibrancy and colour and ensured a wholly atmospheric experience as it meandered through the town’s streets from Magazine Road to Burgess Park.
Speaking following the conclusion of the five day Festival, committee treasurer, Cllr Frankie Keena, stated that it was great to witness such a prevalent positive atmosphere within the town as the local community embraced the Croi na hÉireann programme of events.
“It is a great privilege for me to be part of this fantastic hardworking voluntary committee which is ably led by chairperson, John Henson. Upon reflection, it was wholly positive experience for members of the local community to ‘recharge their batteries’ following two years of pandemic restrictions.
“As a committee, we were just overwhelmed with the large number of sporting and community organisations who contacted us looking to partake in the Croi na hÉireann Festival.
“Such organisations arranged a wide variety of displays and open days to showcase their skills in sports, music and community activities to the public. Each day the canopy in Church Street came alive with the sounds of top class music and singing. These groups just wanted to promote their talents after two years of lockdown.
“The festival concluded with a colourful and vibrant parade through Athlone which attracted large numbers of our local community out onto the streets in support of our showpiece event.
“The smiles and excited happy faces of children and parents made all the committee’s efforts so worthwhile. Our Grand Marshalls, the Jadotville Heroes, received a marvellous reception from the crowd and I would like to sincerely express my gratitude to all who participated in the St Patricks’ Day parade. Their participation ensured an amazing spectacle was appreciated by all those present on the day.
“While it is so important to afford appreciation to Westmeath County Council, our main sponsor of the Croi na hÉireann Festival, we also received fantastic financial support from our local business community. Support received from council staff on the day of the parade was also outstanding,” Cllr Keena stated.
Affording his post Festival thoughts, John Henson, chairperson, thanked his incredible team of committee members, William and Marie Leahy, Pat Fitzpatrick, Dermot McElwaine, Deirdre Halpin, Des Ruane and Cllr Frankie Keena who gave a huge amount of their time to ensure that the detailed programme of events were varied and appealed to all family members.
“We had some very co-operative individuals who took charge of events such as the Greenway Treasure Hunt hosted by Caoimhe O’Connell, the fishing competition under the auspices of the Lough Ree Anglers Federation with Harry Waterstone and James Naughton to the fore, Garrycastle GAA for the use of their rooms and clubhouse and Athlone GAA for hosting an American Football game and ceili, and if you wanted to go for a hike Paddy Costello was on hand to assist, while Caroline Coyle was essential to the poetry in the park event.
“In addition, the RNLI, River Awareness and Athlone Boat Club showcased their knowledge and skills on the river for both rescue and sports, while sporting organisations such as Athlone Basketball Club, Athlone Karate Club and Pioneers FC showcased their respective sports to large attendances.
“I wish to express my gratitude to Athlone Town Shopping Centre management for providing their mall for a traders market and also for the wide range of activities they hosted to complement the festival.
“It is our intention to make this an annual festival and should any individual wish to become a member of the committee, please feel free to liaise in the near future,” Mr Henson concluded.
*See this week’s Out & About page for a pictorial flavour of the St Patrick’s Day Parade.