Plain sailing for festival revellers
GIVEN it's a sailing festival, you might expect to get a little wet, and so it proved yesterday.
But the continual drizzle didn't deter spectators, who flocked to Galway for the opening weekend of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Over 100,000 turned out for the opening day on Saturday, and thousands more attended various events yesterday -- ranging from ceili dancing to cookery demonstrations to youth theatre in the Global Village to even the odd bit of sailing.
Marty Mulligan, entertainment organiser for the Village, said the festival organisers were delighted with the turnout.
"I work on Electric Picnic and Mindfield and we wanted to bring that atmosphere here. This is a family festival and it's all free. The crowds have been fantastic and we want to make sure we give them a festival to remember," he said.
Youth groups from the Mullingar Arts Centre entertained the crowds from early afternoon. The novice directors, who were all aged between 16 and 19, put on an impressive lineup of their own plays, much to the delight of spectators, who were also grateful for a bit of cover from the elements.
The theatre tent will also be home to some unlikely visitors later this week. Members of the Occupy Galway movement have been offered the opportunity to state their case at the event. John Kileen of Let's Do It Global said he wanted everyone to have a voice at the festival.
"We invited the Occupy group in because we want people to talk freely. We wanted this to be like Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park in London. Everyone has a place here," he added.
Throughout the day, more and more visitors made their way to the Global Village, including French Ambassador Emmanuelle D'achon.
Yesterday marked France Day at the festival with a special French market set up in Middle Street in the city. The Ceili Mor saw hundreds try their hand at some traditional Irish moves as veteran dancers joined novices on the floor. The tent was decked out with traditional Irish furniture, all on loan from Lynn Antiques for the event.
Hema Jani travelled from India for the festival. She and her niece, Shruti Joshi, from London were delighted to strut their stuff during the ceili.
"We're learning ceili dancing for the first time and it's just so much fun. The whole thing is brilliant," said Ms Joshi.
Thousands more were on hand for the Parade of Sail event, which took place in Salthill. Over 200 boats took part in the event, which saw an array of vessels make their way from Salthill to the Harbour.
Led by the Green Dragon, the maritime parade included everything from professional racing boats to catamarans. The boats were also joined by a fleet that had travelled from Westport via the Aran Islands.
The race has now left Lorient and is expected to arrive in Galway in the early hours of Tuesday morning. But organisers expect from the massive crowds already witnessed that the turnout for the arrivals will be spectacular.
"It's been phenomenal so far. We weren't expecting that many at all, we had planned for a soft opening," said a spokesperson for organisers, Let's Do It Global.