Sligo's Cloonacool Sheep Festival will include sheep, dogs and music!

Stuart Moyles who will perform at the festival.

Sligo Champion

The Cloonacool Sheep Festival takes place this coming weekend in the picturesque mountain village in south Sligo.

The four-day event will take place from Thursday September 29 to Sunday October 2.

The festival will contain both main and fringe events over the weekend and offers something for everyone; ranging from cabaret and dancing to spectacular sheep and dog shows.

An old-fashioned cabaret night with Greenshine from Cork will mark the official opening of the festival this year at Cloonacool Community Centre.

Greenshine are a family trio who have come to national prominence in recent years with a string of hit songs and a feature on RTE’s Album of the Week list.

The show starts at 9pm and tickets at €10 are available on Eventbrite or on the door on the night.

On Saturday night, the gala festival dance takes place with award-winning country star, Stuart Moyles.

Tickets at €15 are available on Eventbrite with a limited number are also available on the door.

The centrepiece of the sheep-themed festival is a prestigious Sheep Show that takes place on Sunday at 2pm.

This event draws entries from all over Sligo and Mayo and while it holds huge interest for the farmers who show their sheep, it also provides a fascinating experience for onlookers attending the festival.

The show features almost twenty different classes for all ages and all breeds of sheep. Many farmers in the region prepare their sheep for months in advance in order to have them in peak condition for such shows and the array of trophies and prize money on offer are much sought after.

All the of cups on offer to the winners are sponsored by families in the Cloonacool area and many of them are given in memory of dearly departed sheep men who dedicated their lives to farming sheep on the Ox Mountains.

The judge at the year’s sheep show is Allistair Lyttle who has been working with sheep since the age of six. Allistair is also a respected dog breeder, selling dogs worldwide.

This year sees the inclusion of a dog show at the festival for the first time.

The increase in dog ownership has now given rise to a renewed interest in showing dogs.

The Cloonacool show, which also takes place on Sunday at 2pm, includes classes to accommodate all breeds, large and small.

There is even a class for the best local dog. The prestigious trophy for Show Champion at the show was presented to the organising committee by Kevin Hannon in memory of his late wife, Kathy Kelly.

Kathy lived locally and was a huge dog lover, showing her dogs at many shows all over Ireland.

Those wishing to participate in either the sheep show or the dog show are expected to have their animals in place in good time in order to complete all entries before the respective shows.

Festival Chair, Adrian McIntyre said; “Its great to be back. We had a great first festival here in 2019 and ever since then we have been just waiting to get it up and running again. “We have a great sheep farming tradition here in Cloonacool and in the surrounding areas and we are using that to honour the tradition and to celebrate that legacy at this time of year.” Cloonacool’s mountain slopes provide the perfect conditions for the breeding and rearing of the famous black face mountain sheep which continue to populate farms throughout the region. Buyers from all over Ireland come to local sheep sales, such as Coolaney, to pick up stock that are highly prized for their breeding and meat qualities. Visitors to the festival this year will also get to enjoy the many home-cooked treats for which the local Mill Community Café had built a considerable reputation. Local school children will be involved in a major art project and will also get to enjoy a Kiddies Disco on the Friday evening of the festival (Sept 30). In addition, there is a Walking Treasure Hunt scheduled for Saturday morning (Oct 1) which will also see the opening of a new road walk in the parish. Those attending the event will find ample and well organised parking. Admission to the festival at the village of Cloonacool on Sunday October 2 is free. The festival is also accompanied by a mega raffle which offers prizes with a total value of €2,000. Tickets for this raffle will be sold at events throughout the weekend and proceeds will help to defray costs associated with the festival.