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Ballina Festival launch

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Ballina Festival launch targets wider audience

Stephen O’Grady

Organisers of the annual Ballina Street Festival have moved to target a more expansive audience, following last evening’s (Tuesday) launch of this year’s event, at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin.Dressed in 18th century costume, representatives of the organising committee distributed leaflets outlining this year’s exciting programme of events on Grafton Street yesterday afternoon, highlighting the forthcoming outdoor pageant on the life of Michael Davitt to be staged at James Stephens’ Park.This year’s festival, which runs from July 6-16, was officially launched by Professor Seamus Caulfield, who was joined by Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin, Mayo Dáil deputies Jerry Cowley TD and Beverley Flynn TD, chairman of Muintir Mhaigheo, Jim Murphy, and by the chairman of Ireland Westport Airport, Knock, Joe Kennedy.Representatives of chief sponsors Guinness, Heineken and Ballina Beverages were also in attendance.“It’s the fourth largest festival in Ireland at the moment and in that league it should have a higher profile and a higher platform,” Matt Farrell, (pictured) vice chairman of the Festival Committee, explained at the Dublin launch.

070606_matt-farrell_200“We are bringing in events that we would hope to get national participation and recognition in, with a view to going international after this year.”Among these new events are a triathlon competition involving Irish champions and with the potential to attract triathletes from further afield, plus a Reach for the Stars event to be run on a regional basis this year, but which could provide high profile national and international interest in future years.“It has such a high profile now and such a high reputation it is very difficult to keep things fresh year in year out,” Mr Farrell added.The festival, whose high points also include Heritage Day, Mardi Gras and International Night, will also receive a Mayo launch in due course. Two representatives of the Festival Committee were in Portadown on Monday last for the launch of the local ‘Country Comes To Town Festival’. The twinning of Ballina and Portadown meant that the north Mayo town was officially represented and profiled at the Northern Ireland launch, with that endeavour also reciprocated by Mr Farrell at last evening’s Dublin launch.The organisation of this year’s festival, which was in danger of cancellation at one stage earlier this year, is so advanced that the committee has recently been updated by Met Éireann on likely weather conditions during the ten-day event.“We have just got the weather forecast for July and a very good July is promised this year,” revealed Matt Farrell.