All roads lead to Newmarket on Fergus this weekend as the fourth annual village carnival takes place on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of August. The three day festival has a wide range of events taking place and there really is something for everyone.
The Clare Herald’s Páraic Mc Mahon spoke with Siobhan O Driscoll, Orla Meehan, Tracey Daly and Eimear Murphy who are Obair coordinators and the main organisers of the festival, ahead of the big event.
To understand a story its best to go back to the beginning and that’s exactly what Obair are aiming to achieve through the Village Carnival. The goal of the festival is to build community spirit and as Siobhan O Driscoll tells us “Obair is all about community spirit and community development”, the festival helps the community of Newmarket on Fergus and surrounding areas to build that same spirit. The festival was very popular back in the 1940s and 1950s when it was a nine day event while the last time prior to 2010 when it was held was in the 1980s. The Obair coordinators were intrigued looking through old photos of the carnival back in the 40s and 50s when the event was at its peak. The photos acted as a sort of inspiration that something similar could be done to build community spirit. While there is no circus like there was back in the 40s and 50s, even without the tightropes the atmosphere is still electric throughout the course of the weekend.
Throughout the week in the lead up to the Village Carnival there will be mask and costume workshops taking place in the Obair building situated in the heart of the village. These workshops will take place from Tuesday the 19th to Friday the 22nd with artist Natalie El Baba. Children of all ages are invited to attend the workshops and the created masks and costumes will be themed for Friday’s parade and children’s disco. If more information is required in relation to the workshops those interested can call 061 368030.
The action really kicks off on Friday night with the big parade commencing at seven o clock and registration taking place an hour beforehand. The theme for this year’s parade comes from the popular Disney movie ‘Frozen’ and will feature life size Disney characters. O Driscoll recalls that growing up in the 80s it was a big part of the carnival and “children love it” so through this year’s theme the co-ordinators are attempting to make the parade “more child-centred” so that more people can have the same memories of the parade as O Driscoll does to this day. The parade will begin outside the library and make its way through the village and finish up in the green. Prizes are being awarded for the best costume and most inventive float so it enables the whole family to get involved. As Orla Meehan adds “everyone comes together” for the parade and Tracey Daly highlights that “all the clubs come together” which is great to see. Following on from the parade there will be a display of Hip Hop dancing from Sparks Dance Troupe and a Disney Disco in the green.
Friday’s festivities conclude with a tribute to the late, great, Robin Williams. O Regan Park is the venue for the outdoor screening of Mrs Doubtfire with the opening titles rolling at half past nine. The film has been chosen specifically so that it suits every member of the family. The outdoor screening has a small entry fee of €2 and those attending are asked to enter by the handball alley walkway.
Saturday is billed as the Family Fun Day with a host of events taking place that aim to have the whole family involved. Kicking off proceedings in O Regan Park is a Community Barbecue Cook Off between local businesses and community groups which will be judged by a Celebrity Chef. Also taking place is “Newmarkets Fittest Family”, each family must have four members, with a minimum of one adult accompanied by two children and each family must have a female member. This event celebrates the opening of the playground at O Regan Park by getting families together and a well-known Sports Personality will be acting as a judge.
One of the main attractions taking place is the Open Air Concert which will be held in the Green. Hermitage Green are the headline act and it is hoped that the much talked about band will get a deserved large following when they take to the stage. In an effort to give up and coming music groups a platform to perform, each year the opening slot of the Concert is set aside for a local young act. This year the honour is bestowed upon Limerick based indie rock band, Little Tents. Tracey Daly has highlighted the opportunity it gives to aspiring artists and has said workshops done in previous years with the likes of Sean Keane and Paddy Casey has been “life-changing” and a “great experience” for the young artists. Also performing on the night will be Clare based singer songwriter Síomha Brock and the Shannon Gospel Choir. Former Miss Clare and Newmarket on Fergus native, Hazel Mc Mahon will be MC on the night and Siobhan O Driscoll says “it makes you realise what you have” when its locals like Hazel Mc Mahon or Marie Donnellan having big roles in the festival.
To coincide with National Heritage Week, Sunday is labelled as Heritage and Biodiversity Day with a plethora of events on the menu. This special experience takes place in O Regan Park and the day helps to highlight Newmarket’s unique heritage. For the 2014 festival the emphasis is on biodiversity and restoring wildlife to the region. A bug hotel is being constructed at one o clock so for those slightly squeamish when it comes to bugs, they’re advised to have their lunch before they arrive. From two o clock onwards attention turns to, a guided talk on the Mill Race Regeneration Project along with folklore and storytelling with Eddie Lenihan. Lenihan will share stories and tales about buried treasure, haunted places and stories of myth, magic and mystery for all the family, this will take place in the purpose built Storytelling Circle.
To close out the carnival, popular family band Crystal Swing will lead the showband night at The Hall commencing at seven bells. It will be a hark back to the old days when The Hall rocked to the sound of the showbands. Tickets for this event are available from Café Fergus at a price of €10. This will go towards the cost of hosting the Festival with the rest of the funds coming from Obair and fundraising. A fundraiser held recently was “An Evening With Mary Coughlan” which took place at Beechlawn House and that will be live this Friday night on Irish TV’s show Clare Matters.
The co-ordinators are grateful to the core group of volunteers that help in any way they can to ensure the Village Carnival is a success. Also Meehan credits those that travel from near and far to get to the festival and the impact it has on the local businesses “We have a massive increase in footfall” mainly with a “big influx from Shannon and surrounding areas” and as a result the local businesses “do well”. While at times it can be “tough with sponsorship as we try not to put pressure on local businesses” and “fundraise throughout the year to meet costs”, Meehan concludes that it is “worth it as it’s a brilliant festival”. One of the main goals of the Obair organisation is to bring the community of Newmarket on Fergus together and with this fantastic festival it certainly does that. There’s something for everyone at the village carnival so make sure you pop in this weekend and see what’s there for you.