Croí na hÉireann Festival chairperson, John Henson, has expressed his gratitude to all those who were in attendance at the festival launch in The Bounty recently.
Initially referencing the 2022 Croí na hÉireann Festival, the chairperson noted that the “buy in” from representatives of the local sporting, community, ethnic, cultural and business organisations enabled the event to be a “success” as he hoped for a similar outcome prior to the hosting of this year’s occasion in March.
“The awards night, hosted in the Sheraton Hotel, was testament to the level of interest and enthusiasm generated when an expected crowd of 100 exceeded 250 persons and a fabulous night of entertainment was had by all in attendance.
“That level of interest and enthusiasm was evident once again at our Festival launch with such a vast range of diverse organisations in attendance, their sole focus being to assist in the planning of this year’s event.
“Enthusiasm is contagious and will spread rapidly through our local community, but there is a need to harness that enthusiasm and bring it to new levels, as we constantly look for fresh ideas and seek new members and participants each year,” Mr Henson stated.
The five day Festival will commence on Wednesday, March 15 and conclude on Sunday, March 19 with a Parade in honour of St Patrick.
“March 19 is also ‘Mother’s Day’ and suitably befits the theme for this year’s parade which is ‘Mna na hEireann’, an acknowledgement of the incredible contribution made by the women of Ireland to our country, culture and society.
“A competition will be hosted to select the best float entry using this theme and will have categories that include inter company, inter club and inter community. This is an opportunity for those involved to come together and create an innovative entry for their group.
“We always strive to be all inclusive in our approach to all sections within our community and the involvement of so many nationalities and ethnic groups last year added to the spectacle and enjoyment for all those who viewed the St Patrick’s Day parade.
The objective of any parade committee is to create a colourful and atmospheric spectacle, but it does not always suit some in our community so we have decided that a section of our parade from Flannery’s Pub/Dunnes Stores towards the roundabout at Golden Island Shopping Centre will be designated as a sensory sensitive section where all parade participants will be encouraged to march in silence. We hope this will provide visual enjoyment for the children who are uncomfortable with audio distraction.
“A full range of Festival activities will be published when finalised, but visitors to Athlone are certain to enjoy numerous cultural experiences from Brian Friel’s ‘Philadelphia Here I Come’ at Athlone Little Theatre on March 15 and 16, a Ceidhli Mor on Thursday night, street based activities on St Patricks Day and over the five day Festival duration, a soccer tournament, hurling/camogie tournament, fishing competition on Lough Ree, 10K road race, children’s treasure hunt, karate demonstrations, gymnastics and much more,” Mr Henson asserted.
Committee treasurer, Cllr Frankie Keena, spoke highly of his fellow committee members who voluntarily give of their time to deliver a “spectacular” festival.
Cllr Keena had a special word of gratitude for John Henson whose energy was pivotal for the success of the festival. In particular, he referenced John’s close contact with Providence, Rhode Island, USA, which he utilises to invite Americans to Athlone for the festivities.
“it is heartening to see new groups contacting the Festival committee looking to get involved. All interested groups need to register and inform us of their particular activity. It is important to note that we do not charge for entries as this is a community based festival and parade.
“We are hosting a Festival fundraising table quiz in the Bounty on February 8, at 7.45pm. A table of four is €40 with excellent raffle prizes also on offer and we would encourage the public to please come along and support this quiz,” Cllr Keena concluded.