Back to the future with style and substance
I don't hold back criticism when I believe its warranted but I'm also not slow to give credit when its due - and Teagasc's Farming and Country Life 1916 commemorative event in Athenry was, quite simply, superb.
The clear core theme gave it a natural shape and appeal, with just the right mix of education and entertainment. There was a fresh source of engagement around every corner. The volunteers on the stands were enthusiastic, polite and engaged. The atmosphere was magic.
We stood for half an hour watching two men cutting logs into planks with a bench saw from the early 1900s. Alongside us was a little boy of about four who stood mesmerised throughout and only left reluctantly when his mum dragged him away.
Then there was the staged school class. A lady behind Robin asked if her pre-school grandson could squeeze through for a better look. But, as she went to move him forward, she saw the cane-cracking, smocked teacher in full flow shouting, so made a quick about-turn, saying that if he saw that, he'd never go to school.
I was delighted to see so many young people involved in the running and also in attendance. It shows there is a massive interest in our heritage across the age spectrum.
Obviously, the sunshine was also a big help.
If all that wasn't enough, admission was free and there was no commercial aspect so that meant the only thing money was required for was sustenance. So we did get to spend a penny, but even that was a pleasure.
As we headed to a semi-circle of 36 portaloos after 5pm on the Saturday, past experience meant I handed the girls a tissue. I needn't have bothered.
Not only was there still loo paper but there was also hand-wash gel in the dispensers, meaning we walked away feeling properly refreshed.
Another element was the novelty, the sense of being in a new place and attending a new event. Of course, this was more unique than new and people are more likely to make the effort to attend and connect when they know it's a one-off.
This highlights the conundrum faced by annual events, how to keep people coming back when remaining in the same location and retaining the same key events.
I didn't get a chance to take in a fraction of what was on show but I did pick up various booklets that I will be dipping back into, especially about the life of women at the time and particularly the lives of some of the trailblazing women who were around.
Sitting for a breather in the shade on the roots of an ash tree, it struck me that this was probably one of the few remaining living things there from 100 year ago.
Sometimes when we think of the past, because the photos were in black and white, we can be inclined to think that life was duller.
But, closing my eyes and listening to the gentle chat all round, I realised life today probably isn't all that different.
Every day we go about our business: children to school, adults to work and we all eat a meal in the evening. People are still at the heart of our lives - family, friends and our community.
Well done to all involved!
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