TWINKLE TWINKLE Ballina’s streets sparkle with light in the run up to Christmas. Pic: Mike Kinsella
In Ballina, the salmon is so important, they celebrate it twice. The Ballina Salmon Festival has been running for 54 years now, but recently winter celebration of the knowledgeable fish was introduced: the Frosty Salmon Festival – and last Sunday it kicked off in style, and will continue to bring festive cheer and seasonal fun to the north Mayo capital until New Year’s Eve. The Frosty Salmon Festival celebrates the community and businesses of Ballina, and once again, the theme of supporting local this Christmas features large.
Sunday was a fun-filled family day, and the biggest and best festival opening yet. Ballina’s stunning Christmas lights were illuminated in front of a crowd of thousands, and Santa arrived in town on his sleigh and was escorted by parade to his home in the Military Barracks, where he will take up residence for the next few weekends, assisted by the Fifth Mayo Scouts. Families can visit Santa in his grotto there – and kids get to sit on Santa’s knee, whisper their wish lists and receive a gift from the Man in Red. The grotto’s snow-capped gates will be open on December 1 and 2, from 2pm to 4pm; December 8 and 9 from 2pm to 6pm; and December 15, 16, 22 and 23 from 3pm to 6pm.
Holidays are coming
A major addition to this year’s festival is the inclusion of Ballina on the Coca-Cola National Christmas Truck Tour – so fitting, as the company is such big part of the town’s fabric. Stopping at the Military Barracks in Ballina on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 12, the truck will delight onlookers with its the iconic ‘Holidays are Coming’ jingle, made famous in their Christmas TV adverts.
Featuring a glittering winter wonderland setting nestled amongst a festival of lights, visitors will be able to enjoy a can of Coca-Cola while enjoying great photography opportunities and creating magical memories that will last a lifetime. Coke merchandise will also be available to purchase, with the proceeds going to St Vincent de Paul. Consumers will also be encouraged to recycle their cans, in line with Coca-Cola’s World Without Waste global commitment to collect and recycle a bottle or can for each one sold by the year 2030.
The Frosty Salmon Festival’s annual Mistletoe Market will extended to two days this year, and it will take place on Saturday, December 8, and Sunday, December 9, from 12 noon to 6pm daily, under the canopy cover in the Military Barracks.
A European-style market run by the Fifth Mayo Scouts, it will feature over 40 decorated stalls of local crafts, artisan food, music and entertainment, with lots of opportunities to buy locally made gifts and trinkets for Christmas.
Irish Rail’s Polar Express Christmas Train runs on three dates this year – December 8, 15 and 22. Once again this special hour-long trip to Manulla and back with Santa and Mrs Claus on board promises to be a truly memorable experience for children of all ages. Tickets are now on sale from Ballina Train Station.
Also new to the Frosty Salmon Festival programme this year is the Yuletide Fair, which will take place in the courtyard at Dr Kathleen Lynn Lane (off O’Rahilly St) from 12 noon to 7pm on Saturday, December 22, featuring arts, crafts food and beverage, including some local craft brews.
President of Ballina Chamber, Hugh Rouse, said: “Underpinning the Frosty Salmon Festival is a plea from local retailers for members of the Ballina public to shop local where possible this Christmas. Money spent locally stays locally and is recirculated into the community through local businesses’ generous sponsorship of hundreds of community and charity events every year, so we ask people to bear this in mind when doing their shopping.”
Ballina Chamber is once again selling Shop Local vouchers, which can be redeemed in a large number of retail outlets in the town, including food and restaurant outlets, and can also be exchanged for services such as beauty treatments, car repairs, even plumbing. Unlike with larger voucher schemes there is no administration fee. Vouchers are available all year round in denominations of €10, €25 and €50 and make an ideal Christmas gift or bonus. A list of participants is available on www.ballina.ie.
The Ballina Chamber Christmas Cracker Bonanza Draw also takes place with €10,000 in local voucher giveaways on offer. Shoppers can enter as they buy in various outlets around Ballina. Draws take place on December 7, 14 and 19 to give people time to spend their vouchers before Christmas!
Finally, Mayo County Council is once again offering free parking from 2pm every day in December in all council-owned car parks. Pay and display will be operational as normal on the streets during this period.
The Frosty Salmon Festival Ballina is led by Ballina Chamber of Commerce and supported by a number of groups and businesses including Ballina Beverages, Moy Valley Resources IRD, Mayo North East TÚS, Mayo North, Mayo County Council and the Jackie Clarke Collection.
For more information on the Frosty Salmon Festival, visit www.ballina.ie, see Frosty Salmon Festival Ballina on Facebook or contact Ballina Chamber on 096 72800.