Foreign flavours and local leaders
THE main thoroughfare of Swinford turned into a rich kaleidoscope of colour, sound and smell last Tuesday, as Emigrant, Heritage, Craft and Enterprise Day was celebrated.
The town slowly began to come to life around 9am as street traders set up their stalls and flaunted their wares in anticipation of the busy day ahead. Moroccan lamps made from stretched leather, colourful scarves, local art-work and unique wooden crafts vied for the attention of the passing public as the aroma of king prawns, French cuisine, savoury pancakes and home-made fudge tickled the taste buds.
The level of community involvement in the festival was evident when this reporter discovered a dressed-down Cllr Joe Mellett, Chairman of Mayo County Council, busy driving nails into a stage in preparation for the outdoor céilí later on that day.
“It is a credit to everyone in Swinford for organising this festival and Bríd O’Connell, Francis Brennan and Brendan Cassidy and all the committee. They are top-class people working around the clock and the fruits of their efforts can be seen here today with thousands of people here in Swinford,” said Cllr Mellett.
“It is the twenty-fourth consecutive festival and we are looking forward to the twenty-fifth and the one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth. It is here to stay.”
Festival co-ordinator Bríd O’Connell was equally happy about the success of the annual festival. “The festival is going extremely well this year. We have the support of local people and, although it is not always easy, this year they are coming up trumps. We aim the festival at bringing second and third generation people home from our Irish diaspora. We have had a huge amount of them and that was evident yesterday when we had the historical walks,” she outlined.
Bríd remarked that a great deal of grandchildren of local people who had left the area in the forties and fifties have come back annually. She said the onus was now on the committee to make next year’s event even bigger to mark the silver jubilee of the popular festival.
THE braying of Lucy the donkey welcomed visitors to the streets of the town last Tuesday morning and probably woke a few of those who were still recovering from the previous night’s Siamsa Dance.
Lucy the donkey was donated by Bohola native Bill Durkan in a bid to raise money for the Swinford Agricultural Show. The hugely successful businessman has donated a donkey to the show every year and the one-year-old filly stood proudly at the top of main street last Tuesday as festival-goers entered the raffle to win her. The draw will take place on show day on August 16.
WHAT THE FESTIVAL-GOERS THOUGHT
“I happened upon the Siamsa Sráide festival by accident as I am on holiday in Ballina at the moment. I was recommended to come here today and I am glad I did as the atmosphere is lovely with the music playing in the background. The only disappointing thing is the weather.”
Nancy Rutledge Kildare
“The dance last night [Monday] was great fun and I can’t wait to see Mike Denver as I am a huge fan. I come to the festival as often as I can and I am already looking forward to the twenty-fifth anniversary next year.”
Mattie Harding Liverpool
“It is great to see the mix of the traders from foreign places and the people from the local industries on the streets of the town today. The festival is a great boost for the town and its people.”
“I am hoping the weather will pick up a bit for the afternoon and that the crowds will flock in. But, to be honest, I don’t mind it being quiet for an hour or two because I have been to five different festivals in the past week and I could do with a rest.”
A tired street-trader early on Tuesday
“It is great to see community spirit here today. There is a lot of talk about small towns and small villages dying away and it is people and committees like Bríd O’Connell’s that are shouting stop like John Healy did many years ago. People always say these things are a great idea but they don’t just happen. It is right throughout the year when the meetings are going on throughout the depths of winter, when there isn’t a huge deal of interest, this is when these people keep the flame alive and it is great to see it.”
Deputy John O’Mahony