SPECTACULAR ENDING A fireworks display on Saturday evening will be one of the highlights of this year’s Ballina’s Salmon Festival. Pic: Robert Justynski
It’s a testament to the work of many passionate, dedicated volunteers down the years that this year’s Ballina Salmon Festival is the 52nd to take place in the town. This year’s programme of events is full of a freshness and variety that guarantees something for all.
Festival week in Ballina, as in any other rural town is special; it sees hundreds who have left the town for work or other pursuits returning in their droves to relive the halcyon days of their youth when ‘Fireworks Night’ was the biggest night of the year, Heritage Day was a day-long street party, and it never rained in the second week of July. Such memories may be rose-tinted, but the pillars of the Salmon Festival remain, and this year’s programme contains nearly 50 events.
Over a third of these are designed for children, and festival week is a great opportunity for them to try out new activities for free, with taster sessions in fly casting, clay modelling, modern dance, golf, martial arts and paddle-boarding all included on the menu and available in the area to children all year round.
For bigger children, the Lady of the Moy competition, Mayo’s Got Talent, the Car Treasure Hunt and the first Festival 5km run have already whetted the appetite for the festival proper. The 2016 Lady of the Moy, Nephin Rose Laura Judge will represent the festival and town for the rest of the year.
Wednesday’s National Heritage Day is one of the longest-running events on the calendar, and celebrates the time-honoured skills and crafts of generations past. The town goes back in time for a day, and this year Heritage Day this year returns to its roots by putting a renewed focus on authenticity and traditions like threshing, spinning, forgery, wheelmaking, weaving and woodturning. Traditional music and the sounds and smells of vintage engines, turf fires and traditional cooking complete the nostalgia. The Jackie Clarke Collection once again hosts the ‘Sliabh na mBan’ armoured car that carried Michael Collins’ body, and Mount Falcon Estate Falconry’s birds of prey will be on show from 2pm in the garden. World Champion Irish dancers Cian Lavelle and Stephen Gallagher from the Sheila Moffatt School of Dance, will perform, with the festivities then moving to the Quay for the evening.
On Thursday night, country comes to town with the Ballina State Fair in the Military Barracks. Ride the rodeo bull, milk the cow, try your luck with a hand of cards and dance the night away to Ballina’s own country superstar, Gerry Guthrie, fuelled by a Texan barbecue.
On Friday evening visitors can stock up on currency at the Festival Bureau de Change at International Evening, before indulging in song, theatre, dance, food and drink from Italy, Greece, Mexico, Guiana, Burma, Nepal, France, USA, Argentina and China as well as visiting landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Not bad for a night in Ballina!
Saturday sees the climax of ‘festival week’, when the streets become a riot of noise and colour for the famous Mardi Gras Street Party, followed by the fireworks spectacular on the river. The sight of the night sky blazing with colour against the backdrop of majestic St Muredach’s Cathedral never fails to draw gasps.
Little ones love the Teddy Bear’s Picnic on Sunday in Tom Ruane Park. Bouncing castles, inflatable games, a pirate train, farm animals, and a host of favourite characters make it an unforgettable day for bears, children and big children alike.
Interesting events such as the gripping Irish Press Photographers Association Exhibition, the Flower Festival and the much-loved Busking Competition run throughout the week. This year too, the ‘Ballina Strongwoman’ on Saturday, July 16 will see women from all four provinces will test themselves in this major event in Ireland’s strength calendar.
MORE All festival details and events are detailed on ballinasalmonfestival.ie.