The Galway Sea Festival has the potential to become a major maritime event for the city and county according to organisers who were delighted with the success of the inaugural festival weekend and flagship Gathering event. The festival commenced with the Bright Blue Sea Conference on Thursday with 130 participants attending the day long conference on marine related topics including Sea TECH, Sea PORT, Sea ENEGRY and Sea PORT.
The cool and cloudy weather over the Bank Holiday weekend didn’t deter large numbers of locals and visitors from attending a wide variety of on water and on shore activities.
Festival Chairman Declan Dooley said he was “very pleased with the response to year one”.
“The Galway Sea Festival has the potential to be a major annual maritime event for the city and county. We have had a tremendous response from local businesses who are delighted to see such an event emerge, with many conscious of the increasing and significant competition Galway faces from other cities staging events throughout the summer and particularly bank holiday weekends. This weekend alone Dublin had four festivals – Bloom Garden Festival, Forbidden Fruit Music, the Dublin Port Docklands Festival and the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon – and Galway needs to compete at the highest level to retain its position as one of Ireland’s most popular weekend destinations for the domestic and international markets.”
Dave Vinnell, Commodore Galway Bay Sailing Club said he was delighted with the weekend
“Conditions on Saturday and Sunday were ideal for sailing and the Galway Bay Sailing Club was very happy with the success of the Galway Sea Festival Regatta. The Junior Parade of Sail on Sunday drew large crowds to the Claddagh Basin and the dinghy regatta on Monday had its largest participation ever – though the calm day made sailing difficult.”
Back in the town, Woodquay Country Market was a roaring success with many vendors sold out early while the Silent Disco organised by Galway’s West End on Sunday night was sold out by 11pm and a ‘great night and lovely atmosphere’ reported. Fintan Monaghan of Galway Greyhound Stadium said Saturday night was the busiest Saturday night ever at the Galway dog track as many visitors and locals attended for the finals of the Galway Sea Festival stakes.
There was keen interest in sailing trips on Galway Bay according to Marcus Seoighe of Sail Galway Bay who said that they were full each trip with locals and visitors, many of whom had never been out in the bay. Meanwhile out in Rusheen Bay, there was great demand for windsurfing classes with many first timers taking to the surf boards. The Canoe Polo championships attracted crowds to the Claddagh basin at the weekend.
Other highlights of the weekend included the guided tours of the LE Aoife on Friday afternoon. The tours attracted a large number of visitors eager to see behind the scenes of the off shore patrol vessel before she departed for Achill under new commander Lt Cdr Marie Gleeson. Public talks on Saturday in the Harbour Hotel about the RV Celtic Explorer and Marconi Wireless System were also well attended.
The World Ocean Day celebration in Galway Atlantaquaria was a big hit with families who participated in a variety of activities including a weather science show from Science Ireland, the Enchanted Reef in the Exploration Dome, cartoon drawing workshops with Captain Black John and diving demonstrations and fish feedings! Younger children were entertained with storytelling and face painting while older children carried out science experiments and a range of arts & crafts activities.
The Sandcastle Building competition had over 100 children compete to be ‘King of the Castle’ on Saturday and Sunday while the Aer Lingus International Hurling Gathering Tug O’War saw Salthill Knocknacarra take the inaugural Galway Sea Festival Tug O’War cup.
It was not all smooth sailing however as following a spectacular display jump on Saturday, Sky Dive Ireland had to reschedule plans for Sunday’s jump due to unsuitable weather conditions. The Air Sea Rescue demo planned for Saturday afternoon also had to be cancelled when the helicopter encountered a technical difficulty.
“This was a great start to the summer season and with more time and resources, a lot more can be achieved – Galway needs to continually fight its corner in these difficult economic times and our future plans for the festival are ambitious and will hopefully see it grow and grow” concluded Declan Dooley.