Months of planning ... and it was worth it

Published 19/11/2013 | 05:38

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Jean Kennedy Smith, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Caroline Kennedy lighting the Emigrant Flame on the quay in New Ross last June.

THE POSITIVE legacy of the JFK50 Homecoming day to New Ross is still being calculated, but the 'Gathering of the Year' 2013 award was thanks to the efforts of the community and the council coming together to make the town the epicentre of The Gathering series of events in Ireland.

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The ambitious scope and scale of the project which saw up to 15,000 people descend on the Barrowside town on June 22 was key to its success.

The Homecoming event was the culmination of months of planning. At the heart of this planning was a desire to produce an event that would be attractive to the national audience and one which would resonate powerfully with the diaspora.

As Town Clerk Anthony Bailey said in his competition submission: 'The objective to attract overseas visitors for a major gathering event was very important to us but we were conscious that we should optimize the opportunity to create a quality event including a powerful focal point that would ensure sustained tourism for New Ross.'

The project engaged with and involved the local community like never before and a collaborative cross community and agency committee was established to coordinate the project. A parade was organised by the local St Patricks Day Committee and all of the main stage entertainers offered their time and expertise free.

The stewarding was provided by the local clubs and community groups. As Mr Bailey acknowledged the project would not be possible without the support of the local community.

The project received €16,000 in funding through the IPB Gathering County Flagship Fund, but thousands of euros was spent by local businesses who made sure the town looked as good as it ever has by painting their premises and putting up flags.

The JFK50 Homecoming event achieved €3.6m in free global publicity and was reported in hundreds, if not thousands of media outlets across the globe, at a tmie when the town looked its best, with a new boardwalk and quay front. Arising from its success the Dunbrody Visitor Centre saw an additional 2,500 visitors in the months following the event, marking a 10 per cent increase.

The Homecoming day saw Taoiseach Enda Kenny, members of the Kennedy family and a variety of talented musicians and celebrities arrive in New Ross.

The LE Orla naval ship berthed alongside the quay from which Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith (Sister of late President) under the salute of a naval 'Colour Party' disembarked with the Kennedy Torch brought from Arlington Cemetery to Ireland.

By thinking big New Ross put on the show of the year, the challenge now is to sustain the momentum in the months and years ahead.

New Ross Standard

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