Tuesday 23 January 2018

Festival fever leaves us red-faced with fun

Grainne Cunningham and Paddy Clancy

CHILDREN, sheep and sports cars were all racing as fast as they could yesterday -- though not against each other -- as festival fever gripped the country.

A raft of events around the country sparked a series of surprising scenes that attracted crowds on a busy bank holiday weekend.

Competition was erratic, with false starts and jockeys even woolier than their charges, at the sheep races in Leghowney in Donegal.

The final race of the event, the local derby, featured 12 sheep with teddy bears on their backs. One ewe was ridden by a one-armed panda.

Half of the sheep escaped the start pen and were halfway along the course before they were rounded up by a sheepdog and returned to the starting line. But the early romp dented the competitive edge of two of the favourites, at the end of a six-race affair that favoured the bookies.


More than 1,000 people attended the event, which organisers claim is the only sheep racing on a proper track with 18-inch-high hurdles and bookies in attendance.

It was all about pace, too, at the first ever Irish Festival of Speed at Adare Manor, Limerick, yesterday. The festival, which commemorated the 75th anniversary of the 1936 Limerick Grand Prix, brought together motoring enthusiasts of all kinds, from Formula 1 fans to classic car lovers.

The Limerick Motor Club Sprint saw competitors take to an asphalt race track; other attractions included an aerobatic air display, model aircraft flying and displays of antique cars, alongside the very latest from Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley and Porsche.

Meanwhile, junior fitness enthusiasts joined their parents as they jogged, walked or even toddled their way through the Family Mile Challenge yesterday morning at the Athletics Ireland Family Fitness Festival at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. The free-to-enter event attracted hundreds of entrants, among them Irish running legend Catherina McKiernan and her children, Deirbhile and Patrick. The miler, which got going at 10am, was the first event in a fun-filled day at Farmleigh, with activities including orienteering challenges for all the family and agility tests, as well as running, jumping and throwing.

A more sedate atmosphere pervaded the 47th steam rally in Stradbally, Co Laois, where about 30 steam engines gave working demonstrations to the estimated 20,000 people expected to gather there between yesterday and today.

As well as the array of vintage engines on display, numerous family events included a carnival, sheep dog demonstrations, army tanks and a steam loco engine, offering rides through the woodlands of the Cosby estate. Steam threshing, stone crushing and sawing timber were also part of the fun.

Elsewhere, at Charleville Castle in Tullamore, Co Offaly, Castlepalooza was among several events vying for the attention of music fans. The three-day event included hip-hop headliners Naughty by Nature, as well as Hudson Mohawke, Jape and more.

In the south of the country, up to 5,000 people enjoyed the aural and visual delights of the Indiependence Festival in Mitchelstown.

The three-day event, in the grounds of Deer Farm, is aimed at a more intimate crowd than some of the summer's other festivals, such as Oxegen and Electric Picnic. Even further west, the Clonakilty Waterfront Festival attracted up to 7,000 visitors to performances from a number of international and local bands, including B Positives, Royseven, Fred and Alabama 3.


Meanwhile, the five-day Reich Effect Festival drew to a close at Cork Opera House last night. The musical extravaganza was organised to mark the 75th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steve Reich.

And the Scariff Harbour Festival, in Co Clare, put on a programme of activities inspired by the 'lake' theme and aimed to show off the scenery along the shores of Lough Derg, the inland waterways and the countryside of east Clare.

Events included spectacular skydiving jumps by a British airspeed team, a street circus, a young anglers competition, boat tours and a family fun day. Musical highlights were the Celtic Tenors, Mundy, Mad for Road and the Merriman Ceili Band.

Irish Independent

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