The Athlone St Patrick’s Day Festival committee have launched a major fundraising campaign to help create a spectacular celebration for the town this March 17.
For the first time ever, the committee is enlisting the help of the local community to help fund the parade and accompanying entertainment.
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to encourage local businesses, groups, and individuals to donate to the cause, with a target of raising €3,000 or more towards the festival. At time of writing, a total of more than €1,300 had been reached.
While the committee receives a small annual grant from Westmeath County Council, funding co-ordinator Michelle Doyle says it is not nearly enough to create the festival that Athlone deserves.
“Insurance cover is a huge cost, as public liability insurance has got so expensive in recent years. It means we can’t even think about floats, entertainment, or putting up stalls.
“Unless the people of Athlone get behind it, in two years time there will be no parade, there will be no atmosphere or people out in the shops, restaurants, and bars. St Patrick’s Day will be just another day in Athlone.”
The decision to set up the crowdfunding page was taken after the committee had little success approaching individual businesses for sponsorship.
While the Go Fund Me page has been viewed by more than 10,000 people in the past week, so far just 12 donations have been made, with two local businesses, Custom Cuts and Shannon Academy, donating €500 each, and The Prince Bar and Athlone GAA Club donating €100 each. With more than 20,000 people living in the Athlone area, Michelle is adamant that a lot more can be done.
“There are so many big companies in the town. The parade benefits local businesses and community spirit, it benefits everyone in the town. And it’s not just down to the retailers, we need individuals to come on board too. Even the smallest donations will make a difference,” she says.
This year’s parade on March 17 will follow a new route, starting from the Shamrock Lodge Hotel at 2pm. Street entertainment, buskers, and children’s entertainment are also being planned for the day.
Donations can be made on the Go Fund Me page at www.gofundme.com/stpatricksdayathlone, or by contacting the group via their Facebook page ‘St Patrick’s Day Festival Athlone’.