BY MATT CASSIDY
SeaFest will be taking place in Galway again next year it has been confirmed.
The 2018 edition of Ireland's national maritime festival will be held in the city for the fourth year in a row on the last weekend of June.
More than 100,000 visitors came to SeaFest last weekend to enjoy an action-packed programme centred on Galway Harbour, an increase of over 90,000 from the event held in 2015, generating a €6.3 million boost to the city’s tourism industry.
Dr John Killeen, chair of the Marine Institute said the success of the event has completely vindicated the city's hosting of the event over the past three years.
"We are absolutely delighted about the attendance. SeaFest 2017 has been a success on many fronts. With any major event, I believe it has to be bedded down for people to get to know about it. Through a lot of marketing and exposure we have got SeaFest's message out there and the result has been the huge crowds coming to the event. On average people who come to SeaFest spend on average four hours there, which is a brilliant endorsement.
"We are very pleased Galway has been chosen to host SeaFest 2018, but we will have to do better again next year because we want to be in the race again for the festival in the following years. However, that is up to ourselves to keep making SeaFest a bigger and better event.
"The harbour is the most scenic in the world in terms of putting on shows. The harbour we have is a natural amphitheatre for festival events which makes Galway very attractive. Kristen Smoyer, the flyboarder, said it was the best venue that they have been in anywhere in the world in terms of quality and audience size. And I believe the harbour can even host more events.
"SeaFest is very family friendly and that is very deliberate. The content was excellent. One of the objectives of the whole event is to create an awareness among the public that the sea is an appetising place. We constantly neglect the sea. Very few people are aware of the activities in our environment, so SeaFest is about informing people about our seas that are rich in minerals, food, and energy while bringing a family friendly element and certainly all the activities were family orientated.
"We must thank the huge support from a wide range of local, regional, national agencies, and volunteers who came together to make SeaFest 2017 another memorable event.
Galway Harbour was once again transformed into a giant, interactive 'sea world' with the entire waterfront awash with non-stop water based activities with every inch of the port crammed with boats, more than 100, of all shapes and sizes, including sailing, scientific, and Navy ships.
Ireland's national maritime festival ran a programme of events which included the spectacle of a flotilla of the famous Galway hookers; a display from the Defence Forces; performances from world-champion flyboarders, Kristen Smoyer and Beau Weston, swirling up to 15 metres in the air on pump-powered jet packs in the heart of the harbour; and a showcase of Irish seafood, live cooking demonstration, and fishmongering from some of Ireland's top chefs, Rory O'Connell, Oliver Dunne, and Michael O'Meara.
Visitors were also able to explore the tall ship The Phoenix, Irish naval vessel LÉ Ciara, the Commissioners of Irish Lights vessel the Granuaile, and the Marine Institute's research vessel the RV Celtic Explorer and check out a new marine science gallery at Galway City Museum, the Wild Atlantic - Sea Science, and a unique exhibition on polar explorer Roald Amundsen at NUI Galway.
Among the many visitors enjoying the festivities was Leo Varadkar, his first visit to the city as Taoiseach.
The Fine Gael leader was “delighted” to be in Galway for SeaFest.
"I really enjoyed seeing the ships, seafood displays, water sports and marine science exhibitions,” he said. “ The west of Ireland will benefit greatly from our growing marine economy."
Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, echoed the Taoiseach's sentiments saying SeaFest 2017 brought to a Galway a major focus on marine research and the marine economy.
"These festivals are critical to showcase marine research and our marine economy. We had a very successful series of business events on Thursday and Friday with over 1,000 delgates and many political leaders present, topped off with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar coming.
"We are now in excess of €5.7 billion in national turnover for the marine economy. The 2020 target is €6.4 billion so it is within our sights. There are 30,000 direct jobs in this industry and for every 100 direct jobs, there are over 70 indirect jobs.
"An integral part of the event was the message of 'Harnessing our ocean wealth' and we are tremendously encouraged from the positive feedback we have received from people who have attended because we believe SeaFest offers great engagement for our audience.”
Mayor of Galway city Pearce Flannery said, “SeaFest was a spectacular success and once again shows Galway’s unrivalled capacity to hold national and international maritime events.
Galway has enormous potential to become a leader in the marine world, given it is home to the Marine Institute and The Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, and its natural harbour which is a magnificent resource for the city.”