Three festivals every week for a year. MARK GRAHAM's still a gullible reveller
I’VE BEEN getting bamboozled by the bright lights of the bigger, brasher summer festivals. It’s easily done. Flick through a paper, listen to the radio or turn on the telly and you’ll be told that if you only go to one festival this summer, you should go to that one or become a social pariah. I’m easily led and quite gullible, so I tend to get sucked in by this stuff. After a week of contrasting festival experiences, I’ve started asking myself what type of festivals I enjoy most. You’d think that after 10 months on the road, I’d have it sussed by now. I’m a bit slow.
SHAMROCKS ON THEIR SOCKS
I went to New Ross for the inaugural Irish American Festival on Wednesday of last week. The Rosstifarians have been using New Wexico’s links with JFK for a good few years now as an excuse for a hooley. The twist on this year’s celebrations fits nicely with “The Gathering”. This isn’t a battle where sword-wielding immortals try to lob off each other’s head à la Highlander. It’s an initiative to bring ex-pats and anyone with a pair of shamrock socks to the auld sod in 2013 for a visit and a little spend. The Irish American Festival is tailor-made for this lark. Throw in the JFK arboretum, the Dunbrody famine ship, the Dunbrody Hall of Fame, and the fact that next year is the 60th anniversary of JFK’s visit to New Ross, and you have a mix that will have more Yanks storming the beaches of Wexford than when Saving Private Ryan was filmed on Curracloe beach. I worry that in a rush to create new events that haven’t been tried and tested, just to fit the funding profile created by Lucky Leo, Big Jimmy and their departmental minions, the gatherers mightn’t get full bang for their buck. By all means bring the wearers of the green to Irish American Day, but make sure you bring a gaggle of them to the duck racing in Foulksmills too.
JUST OFF THE BOAT
The Floaty Boaty Race in Galway last week pulled out all the stops. The Global Village, the boats, the stage on the docks, the entertainment and crowds more buzzed up than a beard of bees. For a bunch of fellas who’ve been knocking around in bands for longer than Una Taaffe was selling jumpers, The Stunning seemed genuinely emotional about playing their gig. Before they finished the night with the obvious weather-related crowd pleaser, we were told to use our phones and cameras to film and record to our hearts content; if we uploaded the images to 45sound.com, the audio from the sound desk would be added to the images. This I liked. It was in direct contrast to the frenzy of branding, product placement and tsunami of sponsorship that surrounded the event in Galway. One trader was quoted a charge of more than €10,000 to set up stall for the week. I finished the night with a boogie on Dominick Street at what must have been the noisiest silent disco ever.
A BATTLE ROYAL
On Sunday, I went to Youghal for the Queen of the Sea Festival, another fete setting out to promote local business and tourism, but I only copped this when Emily, the recently crowned queen, told me. I witnessed my first wife-carrying race. A smallish crowd of mainly locals gathered on Mall Strand, but those who attended screamed, wailed, chuckled and guffawed all the way through the event. I witnessed more laughing here in the space of 20 minutes than during the rest of the week combined.
Most festivals exist to bring tourism to a place, to promote something, to realise some commercial or pre-planned objective. The events I seem to enjoy most are those where this isn’t the case or those where this raison d’être is achieved without me twigging it, but I’m gullible, slow and easily led.
Safe travels, don’t die.