THIS weekend will see hundreds of people turn out in Gort to take part in the inaugural Rí Rá festival. Organised by the Gort Chamber of Commerce, the festival includes events for all ages.
“This festival is designed to promote the town of Gort and its surrounding area with events for children and adults alike. It includes every sort of event from sports to music to heritage. It promises to be a weekend of really good craic. We have tried to come up with as varied a programme as possible to attract as many people as we can,” explained Austin McInerney, one of the festival organisers.
“There is a great buzz around the town and there is a great level of co-operation and interest in the festival from residents and business in the town because everyone wants a bit of a lift. The focus of the festival has been to keep it low cost and make sure it is open to all income earners and in these recessionary times with bad weather, we just want to give everyone in the area and around the locality a lift,” he continued.
Organisers are keen to point out that the festival is open to people from all over the country.
In keeping with their attempt to make the festival as affordable as possible, organisers have come up with an innovative attraction.
“This is what we consider a festival first, a discount scheme in which most of the retailers in the town will be offering generous discounts on stock, over this weekend only, to attract more people into the town. We hope that will promote the town as being a place to do business and a good place to live,” Austin outlined.
A huge programme is planned for the weekend with events for children, teenagers and adults of all ages. On Thursday at 7pm, there will be a public talk at Gort Library on Guaire and St Colman, while an hour later in the town hall, Faith Healer by Brien Friel will be performed by The Wild Swan Theatre Company.
Planxty legend Andy Irvine will perform in O’Grady’s Bar, The Square with a limited number of tickets available at the door.
Friday will see a treasure hunt for children beginning at SuperValu at 4pm and the monthly Friday traditional singing night at Whelan’s of Shanaglish will kick off around 9.30pm.
There will be social dancing on Friday night in Gort Community Centre with music by Dermot Hegarty. Gort Vibes Cinema Club will host their festival comedy film Kinky Boots at the VEC building on Ennis road from 8pm.
There is a packed programme for Saturday with a repeat of the heritage talk on Guaire and St Colman in the library at 11am, while at the same time, there will be a free barbecue at the Coole Park picnic area followed by a hike in the Burren beginning at 2.30pm. From 5pm to 8pm, Gort RFC will host a tag rugby competition at St Colman’s Park.
On Sunday, the Market Square in Gort will be filled with food when a country market takes place from 11am to 4pm. Lough Cultra Estate holds an open day from 11am to 5pm, while from midday to 4pm, a sports day will take place at the Gort Community Centre.
One of the festival highlights, the Peasant’s Banquet takes place on Sunday from 9pm with music by Abbaesque.
“Some tickets will be available on the door for the banquet, where unusually, people are asked to dress down and more casually than they normally would and there will be a prize for worst dressed person on the night,” Austin said. Running alongside the main festival is a programme of events especially for young people, the RíVibe Youth Fest. This takes place in Canon Quinn Park at the back of the church and features three days of music from upcoming bands with winners of Best Irish Live Performance at the 2008 Meteor Ireland Music Awards, The Blizzards headlining on Sunday. With the weather promised fine, organisers are hoping for a strong attendance.
“We are asking people to come out and support the festival and hopefully, this will be an annual event. For the children and the young people, this is probably the last chance for them to get out and have fun and kick off the cobwebs before going back to school. Come out and enjoy yourselves before the end of summer,” Austin urged.
Full details of the events can be found by logging on to www.gortchamber.com, by contacting 085 7689367 or from the festival office in the square.