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Pig racing, tractors and stone throwing in weekend of fun

THE ice-cream weather may have been in short supply but that didn't stop thousands of people attending dozens of festivals around the country as the summer events season swung into action.

A massive tourist drive got under way as communities the length and breadth of the country celebrated everything from bluegrass tunes to racing pigs and even the humble tractor.

And while the sun shone over much of the country, Met Eireann said it was unseasonably cold for the May Bank Holiday weekend.


The holiday weekend will end in a damp squib for many parts of the country today as heavy rain moves in.

However, the conditions were perfect yesterday for the World Stone Throwing Championships in Corofin, Co Clare, where men and women recaptured their misspent youth under blue skies as they aimed stones at upturned bottles.

Now in its 13th year, the charity event attracted crowds to Campbell's Yard off Main Street, with local lady Denise O'Malley winning the women's event and Donegal native Marc Brown triumphing among the men.

"The bottle is about 18ft back and the women's is a bit closer. We use wine or brandy or vodka bottles -- whatever we can get our hands on," explained one of the organisers, Anne Campbell.

"You hand over €5 for five stones and if you break a bottle you're in the final. It looks easy but it gets under people's skin. It's great fun," she laughed.

Another novel charity event was the Racing Bacon Sunday, which saw a drove of free-range pigs jumping through car tyres and overcoming other obstacles.

Up to 1,000 visitors flocked to Cahir GAA grounds in Co Tipperary for the unusual race day.

The porcine athletes will compete at another event in Limerick later this month before they are retired to stud.

Meanwhile, in Kilkenny a fiddler took to the roof of the city's castle to mark the 15th annual Smithwick's Kilkenny Roots Festival, which comes to a close today.

Western swing fiddle player Amanda Shires perched precariously from the battlements of Kilkenny Castle ahead of her sold-out performance at Ryan's Bar last night.

Also in Kilkenny, another daredevil, fireman John Delaney, showed he also had no fear of heights as he and his colleagues took it in turns to scale a ladder in the city centre to raise money for Crumlin Children's Hospital.

The group of 20 firefighters went up and down the ladder 650 times between them -- the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest.

In Arklow, Co Wicklow, Jedward fans were out in force as the twins performed at a concert to raise funds for the local Seabreeze Festival, which takes place in July.

Up to 2,000 fans, many decked out in green capes and sporting sky-high quiffs in honour of their heroes, packed Bridgewater Centre Park, the home of Arklow Town football club.

A more sedate but no less enthusiastic event in north Cork saw thousands of tractor enthusiasts turn out for the annual Tractor World Show at Corrin Mart.

More than 200 vintage tractors dating from the 1920s onwards were on display -- together with displays on engine restoration and rebuilds.

"The tractor had as big an impact on Irish society as the car. Rural Ireland was never the same once they became affordable to ordinary farmers," said tractor fan Jim Donoghue.

Tractor restorers now pay hefty prices for old machinery recovered from sheds, fields and, in one case, a bog.

"Some restoration projects can go on for years," said show organiser Tony Doyle.

Meanwhile, renowned street theatre company Macnas entertained crowds at the Drogheda Arts Festival with their 'Rumpus' procession through the town last night.

Irish Independent