'Rusty' is the toast of Ireland BikeFest

Killarney's Rusty dreamt of becoming a biker since his first BikeFest in 2006

Tadhg Evans

The increasingly popular Ireland BikeFest, the festival of biking that has come to engross the town of Killarney and thousands from further afield, attracted a record 50,000 visitors over the bank holiday weekend - a testament to its growth since its 2006 debut.

As it has been doing for many years now, visitors from throughout Ireland, the UK, mainland Europe and North America descended on Killarney and the Gleneagle Hotel-based Bike Village over the course of the 2018 event. But there were also patrons from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, and even Papua New Guinea.

Of all the visitors, however, it's unlikely any were given quite as much cause for excitement as Killarney's Rastislan 'Rusty' Mizenko, the incredibly fortunate winner of a Harley-Davision 750 motorcycle through the raffle held in aid of Muscular Dystrophy Ireland.

Aoife O'Donoghue explained to The Kerryman that there were scenes of joy as 'Rusty' heard that he had won; he happened to be in the crowd at the time, which hasn't always been the case with raffle winners at the festival.

Speaking to The Kerryman Rusty, originally from Slovakia, said it was an "amazing moment" as he has dreamed of being a biker since the first BikeFest back in 2006, some two years after he moved to Killarney.

"I am 49 soon, so this was my birthday present," he said. "I couldn't hear the announcement, and it was my son who came to tell me I had won. I said 'no, no?', and he kept saying 'yes, yes!'

"The bike is in Dublin at the moment, but I might have it on Friday or Saturday, I don't know. Me and my son will use it between us.

"Ever since the first BikeFest in 2006, I've had a dream to own a motorbike. This is a dream come true!"

Aside from Rusty's joy, there was plenty more happiness to go around as the weekend doubled up with Kerry's first day out in the Munster Championship, leaving Killarney glowing in a carnival-like atmosphere.

For the bikers and biking enthusiasts, there were ride-outs to scenic parts of the county and the BikeFest parade, as well as opportunities at the Bike Village to set ones eyes on some impressive machinery or take on a demo motorcycle.

But the event has never been just about the motorbikes; festivities such as the second BikeFest dog show, the free, live entertainment, festival food, and the Harley Bar did plenty to add to the crowd.

"It was a resounding success," Chairperson Breffni Ingerton said following the 2018 edition, "and contributed to a bumper weekend for the whole of Kerry and beyond.

"The weather added to the camaraderie among all the festival goers, which was fantastic. Record numbers visited the Bike Village over the weekend...The key to its success is its wide appeal and the incredible atmosphere; everyone attending just wants to have fun."