Publicans in Mullingar have seen a “tsunami of business” as the town hosts the first Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann after a two-year absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Half a million traditional music fans are expected to flock to the town before the fleadh finishes this Sunday.
Fáilte Ireland has estimated the value of the event to the local economy to be in the region of €30m, giving the area’s hospitality sector a much-needed boost following two years of restrictions.
Liam Gilleran, chairman of the Westmeath branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) and proprietor of Gilleran’s Bar near the town centre, said he was “on a high” after day one of the festivities.
“The success of the fleadh finally coming to Mullingar is incredible to see, I feel very emotional,” he said, adding that the economic benefits brought by the fleadh, which opened last weekend, are already huge.
“It was just incredible, feeling the pulse of the festival. There was a tsunami of business yesterday, I was expecting it as I’ve been to a few fleadhs – but I think some of my colleagues were taken off guard.
“I’m delighted for all the pubs and hotels and the success they’re having in their businesses. We here in Ireland, we have an awful habit of complaining – it’s a very Irish thing.
There was a great buzz around the place, and we couldn’t keep the fish and chips out of the fryer
“But there’s certainly nothing to complain about this week. Westmeath County Council, the Fleadh Committee and the volunteers should take a bow because they’re the ones who made this happen.”
Owner of The Fish Market, George Stephens, said the fleadh is “putting Mullingar on the map” and he hopes music fans will return in the future.
“We had a great opening night yesterday,” he said. “There was a great buzz around the place, and we couldn’t keep the fish and chips out of the fryer.
“Long may the business continue over the next couple of days.
“It’s huge for the town, it’s putting Mullingar on the map and people are seeing it for what it is. Hopefully people will realise how central we are to everything, and we get a lot of recurring business from this.”
David Quirke and Denise Buckley, owners of confectionery shop Sugar Plum Sweetery and the Wholesome Kitchen restaurant, are also over the moon as business is “non-stop”.
“It’s going great, lots of new customers on day one with tourists and faces we haven’t seen before, which is great, so hopefully people will be enticed to come back again. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day,” David said.
“We’re expecting things to get a lot busier near the weekend, Friday and Saturday, so long may it continue. There’s a really good feel to the town and the atmosphere is just going to keep getting better and better.”
Mullingar Town Park is playing host to vendors selling everything from honey to toy cars. One such vendor is EJ Smyth of The Flower Smyth who sells hand-made and dried flower arrangements to be wore as corsages or boutonnieres.
“I’m a florist who usually works with fresh flowers, but I decided to go for something more traditional for the fleadh,” she explained.
“This is my first fleadh, but I have done other festivals. The atmosphere is great, and business is doing OK. We’re expecting it to get better, but it is only the start of it.”