Revellers get in gear for dozens of action-packed holiday events
The economy may be banjaxed, but dozens of events around the country this Bank Holiday weekend are offering plenty of opportunities to forget your troubles.
In Co Cavan, a mountain of pumpkins has arrived in Virginia for the town's annual pumpkin festival.
Apart from a giant pumpkin contest, the event plays host to a street carnival, a fireworks display and a number of musical acts, head- lined by Meteor award-winner Imelda May.
The Virginia festival celebrating the humble pumpkin is typical of lots of small events around the country, but there are bigger events, too.
In Cork, Ireland's most celebrated jazz festival has been banishing the economic doom and gloom with 50,000 fans jazzing it up on Leeside.
The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival ranks as the single biggest tourism event in the south's autumn schedule. Lord Mayor Michael O'Connell described the jazz as "the jewel in the crown" of Cork's tourism events. A broadened musical programme, enhanced fringe-festival events and an overwhelming emphasis on free entertainment and value for money has brought the crowds flocking south.
Organisers estimate that attendances for this year's events are up by 10 per cent on 2009.
The festival is now worth €6m to the greater Cork economy and annually attracts more than 1,000 musicians to Leeside.
However, some estimate that the overall spend from the festival could be worth as much as €20m for the south-west.
Elsewhere, the prestigious Wexford Opera Festival has been running in the sunny southeast every year for the past half-century and is now regarded as one of the premier events in Europe.
The 59th Wexford Festival Opera runs until this Saturday. The festival's full day-time programme has returned, including the popular ShortWorks operas. Priced at €25, they feature condensed performances of Puccini's La Boheme, Italian comic opera La Serva Padrona (The Servant Mistress) by Giovanni Battista and Winners by Richard Wargo, based on Brian Friel's one-act play.
There are also short lunchtime recitals in St Iberius Church in the centre of Wexford town.
Tickets are still available for many of the events at wexfordopera.com, or from the Wexford Opera Festival box office 1850-4-67372, or 053-9122144. Fringe events are listed at wexfordfringe.ie.
Sligo town plays host to the annual three-day Sligo Live traditional music festival.
This year's festival boasts more than 100 events across the town, including French and continental markets in the Stephen Street car park.
Also taking place tomorrow is this year's Dublin city marathon. More than 13,000 runners from 74 different countries will line out for the 31st Lifestyle Sports-Adidas Marathon.
It starts on Fitzwilliam Street Upper at 8.55am and traffic diversions will be in place along the route.
Among those taking part this year are 11 politicians from the three major parties.
Minister for Children Barry Andrews has been running the 10km home from work in Leinster House as part of his training.
He hopes to raise more than €3,000 for Pakistan Flood Relief.
Fine Gael's Jimmy Deenihan said he hoped to break the five-hour mark, having done the marathon in just over that time last year.
Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly, Lucinda Creighton, Damien English and Labour TD Mary Upton will also be on the starting line tomorrow.
Dublin's Marlay Park hosts a spooky pre-Halloween "fright night" today, with a haunted forest trail and a fireworks display at Marlay House. The haunted woods at the park will be open from 5pm to 9pm, and children should come in fancy dress.
Dart and train services to and from Connolly and Tara Street stations in Dublin will be disrupted this bank holiday weekend due to works on rail infrastructure.
A limited commuter service will operate from Connolly to Sligo, Maynooth, Dunboyne, Dundalk and Drogheda. A full service to Belfast will operate with slight delays.
Dart services will run between Howth, Malahide and Clontarf Road, while city southside services will operate between Bray, Greystones and Pearse Street. Buses will link Connolly to Pearse Street for Rosslare-bound passengers.
Meanwhile the Belfast Festival, now the largest of its kind on the island of Ireland, is currently under way and will run until this Saturday.
This year's programme will bring the big names in theatre, music, dance, literature, film and visual dance to Laganside -- in more than 36 venues across the city.
Visitors can see the first-ever stage play by Colin Bateman -- National Anthem, a fast-paced attack on the language of the 'new' Northern Ireland.
A concert of two halves
FOR me, writes Grainne Farren, the Cork Jazz Festival really got under way on Friday night in the Triskel at the River Lee Hotel when Bill Carrothers played the first set in a concert of two contrasting halves.
The American pianist, a frequent visitor to Ireland, led a trio with Dave Redmond (double bass) and Kevin Brady (drums). The three of them have played together so often that they have the close rapport of a regular group.
Most of the tunes were original compositions by the pianist, varying from joyful to sombre and from leisurely to busy.
Even in the most complex passages he had the air of enjoying every moment.
Dave Redmond's warm and nimble bass solos enhanced a number of tunes including the final one, Discombobulated.
The second half of the concert was much less accessible, although interesting and intriguing. Tom Rainey (drums) led a trio with Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax) and Mary Halvorson (guitar). They played a series of five untitled pieces -- at least, no titles were given.