Abbeyfeale festival pulls out all the stops

Marisa Reidy

CAN the organising committee of this year's Gathering Festival in Abbeyfeale please take a bow...

Nine days and nights of incredible entertainment - from school reunions, heritage tours, outdoor entertainment and family fun - injected a new lease of life into the west Limerick town, the likes of which will be difficult to beat.

As they relish the unprecendented success of the week, organisers and promoters are adamant that this year's Gathering event will certainly be repeated in the form of a town festival next year. It has also promoted talk of a smaller festival, perhaps in October or at Christmas.

"Massive credit is due to chairperson Jim O'Connor and his Gathering committee who were responsible for bringing this to Abbeyfeale," chairperson of the Abbeyfeale Community Development Association Norette O'Riordan said afterwards. "So much planning went into this and we can honestly say everything went off without a hitch. It was amazing to have so may people home and have such a good atmosphere around town."

Among the highlights of the festival were a heritage walk through the town, a culture night, a rambling house, 'Nuns' race, bachelor auction, farmers market, sports tournaments and open air concerts, culminating in the brilliantly organised 1950s Ballroom of Romance on Sunday night. Locals and visitors alike were suitably dressed for the occasion, while Fr Casey's GAA Club was transformed to fit the mood.

On the night, Johnny and Denise Burns and John and Kathy O'Connor shared the prize for best dressed couple, while Maurice Hartnett won best dressed gent and Mary Flynn Collins won the top ladies prize.

Other popular events during the week included Saturday night's open air concert and Sunday's family fun day, deemed a massive success by locals and visitors alike.

Organises also wished to pay tribute to the local search and rescue team who offered so much assistance throughout the weeks, as well as organisers of individual events throughout the nine day festival.

"Everyone is sick and tired of talking about the recession so this was a great way to forget about it and enjoy what Abbeyfeale has to offer," Norette said. "The town is looking so well and the buzz was a amazing, and it's a week we wont forget in a hurry."