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Lisdoon traders unhappy at loss of festival, but open for business

BUSINESSES in Lisdoonvarna has confirmed they are still open and will continue to trade next September, despite the cancellation of the popular matchmaking festival for the second year in a row.
Lynn Connolly, who runs the Rathbawn Hotel, asked if Tesco decided to pull out of Ennis, would people say Ennis is closing for shopping?
Acknowledging a marquee will not be permitted to operate this year due to Covid-19 restrictions on large crowds, she believes it was unfair to other business to cancel the entire festival for the second year in a row.
She said businesses don’t know if they will be allowed to host musicians yet.
“Musicians are booked and are rearing to go. We are in limbo, which is fine under the circumstances, as we all have to stay safe.
“We can’t say whether we will have music. We want to have a good September, but we have to follow the government guidelines.”
She said businesses were not consulted before the matchmaking festival was cancelled.
Councillor Joe Garrihy said it is important to note that Lisdoonvarna is not shut, as a lot of businesses in the village have invested in outdoor seating to comply with Covid-19 regulations.
“I would be hopeful that people will still come to Lisdoonvarna if we continue with the vaccination programme. There will not be a marquee about in the pitch for the likes of Nathan Carter but a lot of businesses will probably run a well-managed activity over September.
“A lot of work has also been done in places like Ennistymon and Miltown Malbay as well for people to enjoy a less crowded experience in outdoor spaces.
“Lisdoonvarna has a fantastic open public park and playground, which is very family friendly,” he noted.
Heather Crowe of the Ritz Hotel confirmed the town is open to serve its loyal customers and they will continue to operate next September subject to Covid-19 guidelines.
“We have got loads of inquiries from our regulars, who couldn’t come last year, but are vaccinated against Covid-19 this year.
“The older population are rearing to come whether we have a big or small festival as they feel it is safe to come following their vaccination.
“Last year, was small but it was very good. People came to the hotel, booked a table, sat down and listened to music, as there was no dancing. It was their first time in Lisdoonvarna for a lot of them.”
In addition to ten rooms, the Ritz has two function rooms, which can be opened into one big room.
Having opened last Thursday, she said occupancy rates are very good, and previously was opened for 12 months of the year prior to the pandemic.
Peter Curtin of the Roadside Tavern and Burren Storehouse said they can safely accommodate up to 150 people in total for outdoor dining.
Mr Curtin said most people will be vaccinated by next September and will be able to enjoy eating out in several establishments in the village, depending on what Covid-19 guidelines are in place at the time.

I would be hopeful that people will still come to Lisdoonvarna if we continue with the vaccination programme

He expects that people should be allowed to congregate in the open for dancing in the square.
Over the last 40 years, he said there never has been a committee meeting where decisions were taken on how the matchmaking festival should be run and this was also the case this year.
“It is a very social festival. There never has been a committee involved and it just moves along from decade to decade. It is a trouble-free event. It is a very traditional festival and it has great support from people who come from all over the country.
“The White Hotel Group is closed but the rest of the businesses in Lisdoonvarna are open for business.”

Successive festival losses cost North Clare €5m


TOURISM-related businesses in North Clare have been left reeling to the tune of €5 million after the cancellation of Lisdoonvarna’s Matchmaking Festival for the second successive year.
North Clare traders estimate the cancellation of the festival will cost them more than €5 million when the last two years are taken into account.
Community groups like Lisdoonvarna Fáilte will also be hit by an income drop totalling €30,000 they gained in previous years from hiring out their facilities and from car parking.
The annual festival, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors from across Ireland and the world since it started 166 years ago, had been due to take place for the month of September.
Councillor Shane Talty said the festival is of enormous benefit to the North Clare economy, and in particular would be a huge loss to Lisdoonvarna for the second year in a row.
“The organisers are probably taking the only decision they could make, but it is a huge loss for all the businesses, hospitality sector, bed and breakfasts and Air B&B.”
Councillor Joe Garrihy said it is another big blow for towns and villages that depend on tourism and noted income generated from the festival goes back into the local economy.
“The immeasurable loss is the lack of a festival for people who come from all over the country every year. People look forward to this time of the year to meet old friends,” he said.
“As the Government have advised that there should be no large-scale indoor events until the whole population has been vaccinated, this year’s Lisdoonvarna Festival has regrettably been cancelled,” said festival organiser Marcus White.
“Many people, especially younger ones, will not be fully vaccinated before the end of September,” he noted.
“All our events are staged inside including the country music marquee, which can accommodate up to 2,000 people which is not permissible under current guidelines.
“We would not be able to manage the very large crowds that normally throng our small town for a month.”
“We also have a duty of care to protect the health and safety of the local community, staff, artists and visitors so we will not be taking any risks,” he said.
However, Mr White said that there were some business owners in the town who had expressed an interest in running socially distanced events, which was their prerogative.
“We owe it to our customers and our performers Nathan Carter, Derek Ryan, Mike Denver and Cliona Hagan, DJs and bands to provide clarity now that this year’s event would not go ahead,” said Mr White.
“To be honest everyone has been very patient, as they understand that this is not a decision we have taken lightly,” he added.
He said that the cancellation of the festival for a second year in a row was also a devastating blow for local businesses, with a loss of over €5 million to the local economy, when both years were taken into consideration.
“Unlike the Electric Picnic festival, an outdoor event, which has been postponed until the third week of September, rescheduling the Lisdoonvarna event to a different date would not be an option,” Mr White said.
“September has always been the month the festival has taken place, since it began 165 years ago.
“Traditionally it’s the time when farmers celebrate the end of the harvest and converge in the village looking for love and a bit of craic.
“It is this sense of heritage and history that makes Lisdoonvarna so unique and endears it to so many people from all over the world,” he said.
Julie Carr, press officer for the festival added that international interest in the festival had been at an all-time high this year, following the release this spring of the new Hallmark Film ‘As luck would have it’.
The film, which was based loosely on the festival, has resulted in thousands of people from the US and Canada wanting to attend.
“A lot of festivals come and go, but Lisdoonvarna has a universal appeal and I am positive that when it returns in 2022, the festival will be bigger and better than ever,” Mr White concluded.

by Dan Danaher

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