Sunday last saw Fethard’s sixth Medieval Festival and Fair being held on the Streets and in the Valley park by the Town Wall.
As expected, the Tipp-Kilkenny hurling match (or mis-match!) reduced the numbers attending but for the still large crowd present it was probably the best Festival to date. The array of family friendly events and ‘hands on’ sites was truly amazing for a festival in such a small town.
There were many new exhibits this year, with Wolfhound Archaeology’s four tented display being a huge attraction. Here, children could really get a feel of what ‘digging up our roots’ is all about and to see the skeletons emerging from the big sand boxes was great fun indeed.
There was also stalls with great collections of medieval fighting gear and equipment and of course local medievalist Colm McGrath and his ‘merry men and women’ waged another few fierce battles to the delight of the crowd.
There was noticeably more tourist visitors present as Failte Ireland and the Heritage Council promoted the Festival on all their websites and printed material.
Garda Mounted Unit
A big surprise to all was to see two of the Garda Mounted Unit from Dublin on their big strong horses joining in the parade. The organisers of the festival put in a request six months ago to Garda HQ seeking their presence but it was only in recent days that it was confirmed that they were coming. So congratulations to all involved and thanks to the Garda authorities for favouring Fethard on the first Sunday of Heritage Week.
One of the big hits of the day was Humpty Dumpty who sat on the wall of the footbridge and insulted all and sundry as they passed by, but he did it in a nice way. Humpty was delighted with the Art Competition in his honour and he thanked Tom Hennessy Spar for the €200 in prizes that he donated to the nine winning children. Then there was Prince Charming, who seemingly is a brother of Humpty’s, who went around charming the ladies and blowing up balloon figurines for any child that wanted one.
Again, the Dog Show, drew the crowds, even though it was in opposition to the hurling and the Full results will appear next week. The new category ‘Best Native Irish Breed’ was introduced and it was sponsored by the Fethard Historical Society in honour of the overall ‘heritage promoting’ nature of the day.
All the usual stalls and exhibits were present; the Falcons, Pet Farm, Food Stalls, Children’s Activity Tent, many hands-on Craft Stalls, Coin Striking, Big Band, Dunking Tank, Wobbly Circus, Raffle, Quiz, Stocks , Forge and new side shows as well.
The new/old Wheel of Fortune spun on in its ‘on-tender hooks’ way (with the punters nearly beating the Spinning Master!). The Celtic Stickmakers Club showed you how to adorn your walking stick and master stonemason Julia Gebel was seen working on her Watergate Sheela na Gig masterpiece. Then there was Willie O’Meara and his old style board game that tested the dexterity and speed of anyone who wanted a free go at turning and moving the timber pegs from one side of the board to the other.
The Festival organisers would love to see more people or groups coming forward with games such as Willie’s as they are great fun for all involved.
Big Financial Outlay
All in all it was a wonderful and very cheap day out for the family. It was all made possible by the financial support of the Heritage Council, the Heritage Office of South Tipperary County Council and Fethard Historical Society. In all, over €18,000 was paid out to make sure that all the events over the weekend went ahead. Then there is the huge effort by the Festival Organising Committee in planning and executing the event and also in publishing the event around Tipperary and even around Ireland.
Unfortunately there was one small, but very annoying, blot on the day. No, not the result of the hurling match, but a group of local young teenagers, and younger, who tried to make a nuisance of themselves at every turn they could. One performer had to terminate his ‘show’ because of this petty harassment and overall it is a huge slur on the town that these young teenagers seem to be allowed free rein to do as they please. It put a great strain on the organisers to watch and patrol the site to ensure that the 99.9% of people present had a fun family day out –which they did.