Crowds pack Tralee as festive season arrives

Simon Brouder

Thousands lined the streets of Tralee last Saturday as the annual Christmas Sproai got off to a flying start.

The festivities began with the CH Chemists' Santa Parade which has now become as integral a part of Christmas in Tralee as Turkey, presents and pudding.

Hundreds of families lined the Mall to enjoy the parade which saw the Bui Bolg Street Theatre Group and scores of local performers - all in colourful festive regalia - entertaining the crowds.

As one would expect the parade was led by Santa and Mrs Claus but further back - behind various cartoon characters and Disney princesses - was the character who stole the show, one Darth Vader.

To reflect Kerry's starring role in the films the parade's organisers rolled out a Star Wars themed float with Vader and some Storm Troopers making their way through the town centre atop a replica Millennium Falcon.

Given the reception the Dark Lord got from the watching children - and from quite a few adults too, it must be said - Santa could be forgiven for being a little put out over being upstaged at his won parade.

With the parade over it was time for a more for a more formal event, the dedication of the Christie Hennessy plaza in the Town Square.

The dedication saw an imposing stone monument - bearing the lyrics of some of Hennessy's best known songs - unveiled next to the statue of the late singer.

Recently the members of the Tralee Municipal District council voted unanimously to dedicate the area to the late Tralee musician and the dedication ceremony - presided over by Mayor Terry O'Brien - formed part of this year's Christie Hennessy Festival.

With the formalities over it was time for the next of the day's big events, the switching on of the town's Christmas lights.

This year the honour fell to Kerry GAA star Kieran Donaghy who - accompanied by his little daughter Lola Rose - hit the switch and activated the town's very impressive lighting display.

A huge crowd had gathered in the Town Square for the event which officially got Tralee's Christmas Spraoi - 36 days of festive family fun, promotions and entertainment - underway.

Meanwhile the holiday season begins in earnest across north Kerry this weekend. On Saturday Castleisland and Ballylongford will fire up their lights and on Sunday it's Listowel's turn to get festive.