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President to officially open 50th Birr Vintage Week

Thursday, 26 July 2018

President to officially open 50th Birr Vintage Week thumbnailThe first secretary of Birr Vintage week back in 1968 Frank McNamara raises his hat to the present committee when he arrived for the launch of the 50th Annual Festival on Friday evening last.

The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins will officially open the 50th Birr Vintage Week on August 5 next, it was revealed during a press launch on Friday evening.
A large gathering of people in vintage costume turned out for the press launch in the courtyard of Birr Castle and were warmly welcomed by the Co-Chairperson of the festival, Cyril Stanley, who thanked his committee for their immense hard work over recent months and said the forthcoming festival will create many special memories and will be a fitting festival for the golden jubilee.
Co-Chairperson Janine Wilson said this will be a very special year in the history of this long-running and celebrated festival. She said many people remember the early years, including Frank McNamara, who was secretary of the committee for a couple of decades and a good friend of the late Frank Egan, the first Chairperson of the week. The first Chairperson thought the week might only last five years but it became an important fixture in the year's calendar and people wanted to keep it going, with the result that it is one of the longest running festivals in the country.
Janine commented that she is confident that Frank Egan and the first committee would be proud of the many committees that followed, their efforts and achievements.
She said the print programme is now available and many people have been adorning it with praise. It has been beautifully produced and contains a large number of events, as one would expect. It's been great to hear people's enthusiasm and praise for the programme, she remarked. We are proud of it and think there's a fantastic range of events which will provide a lot of entertainment and fun for people.
She pointed out that the secret of the festival's ongoing success is it holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Birr.
The event requires dedication, commitment and passion; traits which have run deep in successive committees since 1968. The original Birr Vintage Week began by celebrating the unique Georgian heritage of the town and all things vintage. Its incredible evolvement from those early days, into what is now nationally acknowledged as a unique historical, cultural and community focussed celebration is testament to the special place the Festival holds in the hearts of the people who have supported it over the past fifty years, and will continue to do so for the next fifty years and beyond.
The festival's success is due to so many people; the organising committee and volunteers; our incredible funders and sponsors; the many clubs, societies and venues who hold and host festival events and the individuals who generously give their time to ensure another memorable highlight in Birr's calendar of events. Their contribution has been, and is invaluable. Special thanks are due to Offaly County Council; Birr Municipal District; Birr Garda Soch-na; Birr Fire Brigade; Central Fire Station (Tullamore); Civil Defence; Marian Hall Committee; Birr Community Responder Group; Order of Malta; Birr & District Motor Club; Birr Lions Club; Birr Tidy Towns; Dooly's Hotel and all festival volunteers. As always, we would ask that you please support those who support the festival.
She also praised the families and friends of the hardworking committee, who are so understanding and supportive in the months leading up to the week.
She went through some of the events in the progamme. In previous years the festival was two weekends but several years ago it switched to just one weekend, as well as the weekdays. This year it will cover two weekends because of the Golden Jubilee. A festival Ball will also be making a welcome return this year.
Janine said Birr's rich artistic vein is reflected in the strongly-supported Visual Arts Trail.
She thanked several of the major sponsors including Grant Engineering who are sponsoring this year's fireworks.
She also thanked Director of Services Frank Heslin, Offaly Tourism Officer Olive Farrelly, and Offaly Local Development Company. She thanked the Earl and Countess of Rosse for always being strong supporters of the week. She praised the town's publicans for year after year coming together and supporting the week. The publicans have been a mainstay of the festival since 1968.
It is your festival, she urged everyone, in your town, and your opportunity to create festival memories for yourself and future generations.
Two songs were also beautifully performed at the press launch. They were performed by Midland Youth Group under the guidance of Enda O'Connor.
Other members of the festival committee include Secretary Julie McGuirk; Treasurer Michelle de Forge; Visual Arts Curator Frances Kawala; Graphic Design George Dempsey Flanagan; Parade Co-ordinator Orla Watkins; Market Manager Danielle Rock; Declan Carroll, Caroline Conway, Clodagh Fay, Brendan Fogarty, Hazel Greene, Cailin Keaveny, Connor Keaveny, Rowena Keaveny, Dean Kelly, Susan Molloy, Gerard Nolan, Luke Sheridan, Dave Wilson, DJ Wilson.
The Visual Arts Trail will be launched in Birr Technology Centre at 6.30pm on Friday August 3, the first day of the festival.
The Vintage Festival Parade will be opened by President Higgins at 3pm on Sunday August 5. It will be an afternoon of fantastic family fun with street theatre, marching bands including Fanfare Piston, floats, pre-WWII cars, bikes and tractors, circus performers, international dance, and music. All ages are welcome to participate in the parade. Contact the Information line on 087 922 6961 for details.
The parade route is outlined on the map in the programme. The After Parade entertainment will include Stuntrider Matty Griffin, kindly sponsored by Hollywood's Garage; parade performers, live music and more. There will be judging of motorised vehicles on Main Street immediately after the Parade.
On Monday August 6, the Ormand Flying Club presents the Annual Air Show and Family Fun Day at Birr Airfield. The organisers are saying this spectacular event will be the largest air display ever seen in the Midlands and will feature fighter jets, coastguard helicopter, Garda helicopter, Team Raven, Rich Goodwin, Eddie Goggins, Gerry Hum, Dave Bruton, Andrew Fenton and the Midland Model Flying Club.
The Gig Rig and Fireworks will start at 7pm on Thursday August 9 at Birr Rugby club. On the final day of the festival, Sunday August 12, there will be a Discovery Dome Planetarium in Marian Hall.

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