Ballina festival’s €5 million boost
ALMOST 100,000 people packed into Ballina for the grand finale of the annual Salmon Festival on Saturday night, marking a week which saw an estimated €5 million generated locally.
An hour-long Mardi Gras parade meandered through the streets leading to a climactical fireworks display over the banks of the River Moy.
Thousands lined the upper and lower bridges in the town, traveling from counties, countries and continents for the occasion.
Chairperson Matt Farrell said it was one of the most successful festivals to date. “The full moon on Saturday night really made the whole thing magical. To see it rising in the Ox Mountains over the Moy and reflecting on the faces of the people really was a special memory for anyone present. In terms of the standard and the attendance, this was without doubt, the best Mardi Gras we have held. Doing something like this and seeing the excitement it creates in the town makes it all worthwhile,” he said.
The €300,000, ten-day event, which kicked off with the release of 15 white doves into the Ballina skies, attracted an unprecedented number of visitors to Mayo.
Almost 300,000 people took to the streets over the duration of the programme with €500,000 generated in wages. An estimated €5 million was made locally as a direct spin-off of the summer festivities. A record number of visitors travelled from Northern Ireland and America.
“The number of people who came from Northern Ireland made all the events very special. Considering our festival was originally held to coincide with the 12th of July bank holiday in the North, it is fantastic to see that we have now come full circle and are welcoming more and more people from the six counties to Ballina each summer. The twin link with the Country Comes to Town Festival in Portadown has really made this a reality,” added Mr Farrell.
Fiona Lynch from Fermanagh was just one of the revelers in Ballina last week. She told The Mayo News she heard about the festivities on her local radio station. “This was my first year here and I can’t believe how brilliant the atmosphere was. The Mardi Gras and fireworks was definitely the highlight for me. It was like being in Rio or something. I will definitely be returning with a big gang of family and friends next year,” she said.
The 34-strong FÁS group and committee will return to work on the plannning of an even bigger and better 2009 festival in the coming weeks.