Skyfest, the annual Saint Patrick’s Festival fireworks spectacular, is set to be held in Waterford city on Saturday, March 14th 2009.
And, to the undoubted delight of beleaguered Councillors and citizens alike, staging the event shall not cost Waterford City Council a single cent!
Presenting the Skyfest proposal to Councillors at Monday night’s monthly meeting, Saint Patrick’s Festival Chief Executive Donal Shiels enthusiastically spoke about his hopes for holding the event on the North Quays.
“We would be aiming to attract up to 90,000 spectators to the Quays,” he told Councillors for an event which will be held in the city, subject to licencing.
“This would be the second time that the event would be staged outside Dublin, having been successfully staged in Cashel in March, which attracted some 70,000 spectators.”
Mr Shiels said the decision to move Skyfest out of Dublin city centre and around the country had proven an instant success.
“We now have chambers and local authorities actively lobbying for Skyfest,” he said. “And that’s created great energy and enthusiasm for the event, something that we’re obviously very pleased about.”
Mr Shiels saluted the expertise of Spraoi, the Waterford group which has become a staple of the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin.
“We have already been in touch with TV [Honan of Spraoi] and we would intend to work with Spraoi and avail of their local expertise when it comes to staging an event like this.”
Musical accompaniment would feature during the fireworks display, which now ranks as one of the biggest in Europe. Large outdoor screening will also be provided on the Quayside for the event, which would run between 6.30 and 8.30pm on March 14th.
“The economic return to Ireland that comes with holding this festival brings is considerable,” said Mr Shiels. “For example, in 2005, it generated over €58.3 million and that’s a figure that’s grown in the interim.”
He confirmed that a launch for the festival would be held in mid-February and that a significant local advertising campaign would be undertaken. Waterford hoteliers will also be briefed by Skyfest organisers in due course.
The park and ride system, so successfully deployed for the 2005 Tall Ships Race, is likely to be initiated once more to ensure the safe transit of large crowds in and out of the city for the event.
City Manager Michael Walsh’s declaration that there would be no material expense to the Council other than “significant personnel assistance” drew a “woo-hoo” from Councillor Mary Roche.
“We’re going to have to put out the Child of Prague,” quipped Cllr Tom Cunningham.
“Anything that can lighten the prevailing mood of doom and gloom can only be welcomed.”
Cllr Roche told Mr Shiels: “We’ll all be looking forward to it and even if does rain, you can be assured of a large crowd in Waterford.”
Next year’s Saint Patrick’s Festival runs from March 13th to March 17th.