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A blooming good time for the whole family

I'm trying not to get excited by the change in the weather. With Bloom in the Park on the bank holiday weekend I'm hoping we won't need to arrive in raingear. Grey skies or blue, we'll be heading along with kids either way.

Having attended Ireland's largest gardening festival for the past five years, you could call us Bloom regulars. You could definitely not call us green-fingered, however. Aside from a bit of colour and nice lavender border, our front garden hovers between barely presentable and seriously unloved.

Our annual jaunt to Bloom is a quest for fun and inspiration. We may be wholly inadequate gardeners, but that doesn't mean we don't appreciate nice things and talented people.

Almost 90,000 visitors attended Bloom last year, and I refuse to believe all are keen gardeners. The show's marketing material bills it as "Ireland's largest gardening, food and family event", and, while I love the showgardens, I think the food and family aspects are nearly bigger draws for us.

Every year we've met friends and their kids and spent the day hanging out in the 70-acre site. Some years we've brought picnics, others we've loaded up on treats from the artisan food market (with Bord Bia the main sponsors it's become quite the showcase for Irish produce).

The adults always like to leave room for a selection of home-baked goodies washed down with take-out cappuccinos or chilled craft beer, while the kids usually opt for ice creams or sugary crepes: unless it's going to leave a big sticky mess all over their hands, faces and clothes it seems they're just not interested.

Our favourite place to dine is by the main stage where uplifting, lazy tunes waft from speakers. This year's music line-up promises everything from alternative trad, to jazz, to a string ensemble playing Bach and Mozart. Perfect garden-party music, even if you're more of a pop fan usually.

Close by the picnic area you'll find Budding Bloomers, a nature-inspired play area with workshops, games and activities for youngsters. They'll love messing about in the sand pits, making plant pots from newspaper and sowing a nasturtium seed to take home.


This year, a kids' stage will host top party entertainer Billy Bubbles, who dishes magic tricks and puppetry, as well as Scientific Sue who'll be taking kids on a fun journey of scientific discovery. Among other marvels she'll demonstrate how exploding vegetables can fuel our cars.

You'll get a visitor's map on the way in, which will help you pick out all the must-see offerings. This year we'll be marking the scarecrow competition, edible map of Ireland, Birdwatch Ireland's kids' marquee featuring wildlife-themed games and live animal display in the Food Village.

I'm most looking forward to is the tree-climbing event. A bunch of qualified tree climbers will be competing in Ireland's first recreational tree climbing competition. Competitors will race against the clock performing tasks high in the branches. I'm just hoping it won't give the kids any ideas to try out at home!

Adults €15, children under 16 free. www.bloominthepark.com