Rockin' Rowley: Feast of country in the Midlands
The country music festival season is in full swing with town squares, football pitches and pop up marquees hosting the shindigs across our island.
One of my personal favourites is the Ballymore Country Music Festival in Co Westmeath where I'll be making my annual pilgrimage next Bank Holiday Monday, August 1.
The headline acts include Nathan Carter, Mike Denver, Jimmy Buckley, Robert Mizzell, Lisa McHugh (pictured), and Brendan Shine.
Ballymore has a tradition going back to the 1970s when the festival was first staged and it attracted over 5,000 revellers from Westmeath and surrounding counties.
I was then a young reporter working with the Topic newspaper in Mullingar, which gave me an excuse to soak up the atmosphere and family fun at those early Ballymore hooleys. Ballymore then disappeared as an entertainment event for decades, but was revived in 2013 as part of 'The Gathering.'
With country music's biggest stars on the bill and a spacious dance floor to cater for fans who enjoy rising the dust during four hours of non-stop waltzing and jiving, it's a great family affair with no cover charge for Under 14s.
Ballymore and similar festivals recall simpler times in Ireland.
They draw neighbours, friends and families together. Many emigrants book their trips home to Ireland for the holidays to coincide with a local festival where they are sure of meeting up with old friends as well as family members.