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Monday 15 September 2014

Gallery: Our favourite night doesn't disappoint

Padraig Byrne

Published 29/10/2013 | 11:44

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At the opening of the Wexford Opera Festival on the quay on Wednesday night were Lunn Yau, Katie Yau and Shauna Mullary
At the opening of the Wexford Opera Festival on the quay on Wednesday night were Karen Rigley and Hannah Mythen
In The Opera House at the opening night were Mairead Ní Nuadhain and Sarah Ryder

It was that special night of the year that all Wexford people look forward to on Wednesday night, as thousands of people travelled into town for the fireworks display to open the 62nd Wexford Festival Opera.

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Children, parents and not-so-small children began to gather on Wexford's quay front from around 6:30 p.m. onwards and enjoyed music and the general buzz that comes with fireworks night.

Once again, the Spiegeltent took pride of place this year on the quay. However, an added element was the old-style fun fair that lit up the whole quay and made the whole night that bit more magical for the little ones as they took a spin on the chairoplanes or the carousel, or tried their luck at winning one of several big teddy bears at one of the old fairground games.

On the big stage set up by the council, Maurice McCarthy once again kept the massive crowd entertained as he got all of the boys and girls ready for big moment when three tonnes of fireworks would be set off.

He also recounted the festivals of years gone by for the older people present, talking of characters from days gone by and the epic singing pubs battles between the likes of The Shambles and The Goal Bar.

Following a brief pause to allow the train to pass by, the guests of honour, Mayor George Lawlor, chairman of Wexford Festival Opera Ger Lawlor and award winning author Eoin Colfer arrived on stage.

First to speak was Mayor of Wexford George Lawlor, who spoke of the honour of being mayor on special nights like this. He commented that he was honoured to be joined on stage by two men who had joined him on stage in a production at The Theatre Royal many years ago, but joked: 'Thankfully for music lovers, Eoin took the route of literature and some 28 million book sales later, I don't think he's looked back!'

Next up to speak was Ger Lawlor, who once again thanked the 200 professionals and 300 volunteers, without whom the festival would not happen. He said that Wexford Festival Opera was shortlisted as one of the top five festivals in the world at a recent awards night in London and said that this was largely down to the welcoming nature of the Wexford people.

He also joked: 'Cousin – Mayor Lawlor – I remember like it was yesterday you in the parish hall covered in feathers singing "I'm only a poor little sparrow". How far you've come. Also, I myself started out playing the tin whistle in the CBS. It goes to show that anyone in Wexford can do anything and that's the wonder of the place we're lucky enough to call home.'

Finally, the man of the moment, Eoin Colfer, gave a wonderfully stirring speech in which he managed to sum up everything that is great about Wexford. He spoke of how he and his wife Jackie got married during the festival 22 years ago and that this time of year holds special significance to them.

He said that for the people of Wexford fireworks night is right up there with St Patrick's Day, Halloween and Christmas. 'It's the day when, for 62 years, we have turned our faces to the sky and looked forward. A day for the child in all of us.'

Eoin also paid tribute to Wexford people who were no longer with us, particularly mentioning his father Billy, who passed away this year. He said: 'On nights like this I can still feel my father's hand on my shoulder and the other hand pointing to the sky above.'

Following his wonderful speech, Eoin declared the festival open and the fireworks lit up the whole town to the collective 'oohs' and 'ahhs' of the people below.

Wexford People

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