NEWCASTLE West is gearing up for its most successful festival ever when WestFest 2014 gets underway early next month.
Crowds of 30,000 and more are expected to flock to the town for the five days of superb entertainment and family fun and the event is estimated to be worth about €1.5m to the local economy.
At the launch of the festival programme, Jimmy Lee, a member of the vibrant organising committee, said WestFest had helped put Newcastle West on the map and helped make it a destination town in its own right.
“We came up with the idea for the festival four years ago when we were in the firm grip of the recession,” he said.
“Newcastle West was badly affected and we just wanted to put a smile on people’s faces here at a very tough time. We are now in our fourth year and the recession is starting to lift so we have an even greater pep in our step now.
“This wouldn’t be possible were it not for the huge community effort, with over 200 volunteers involved in making it all happen,” he added.
This year’s stellar line-up includes The Coronas, the High Kings and Gavin James as well as Mary Black, who is just starting her international farewell tour. But the programme also includes The Ultimate Garth Brooks Experience, which the organisers promise will definitely go ahead!
“We are now very much established on the national festival trail and are really proud of that,” programme director Siobhan Kelly said.
“Our aim is to offer first rate acts at family friendly prices so we are very much putting the message out far and wide to people to bring all the family to Newcastle West and soak up what should be an amazing atmosphere over the weekend.”
In addition to the gigs, the festival also includes an array of fun activities for the family: a 5km and 10km race, a 300ft Bungee Jump and the return of the popular food-fest with its market stalls, local artisan foods and crafts and pop-up restaurants.
A daring Soapbox Derby will take place on the Sunday afternoon, and entries are already being taken.
The Knight of Desmond contest will this year be hosted by comedian and broadcaster Alan Shortt, who will interview eight contestants live on stage and the Newcastle West Golf Club is organising a four-ball, the final of which takes place during the weekend.
This year also sees the Battle of the Stylists. Men and women can be nominated online for a make-over, Ann Liston explained and those with the most votes will be linked up with the participating boutiques and menswear shops and with hair and make-up stylists to be in with a chance to win the competition.
Congratulating the organisers for their “tireless efforts”, Pat Magner, president of Newcastle West Chamber of Commerce said: “These things don’t just happen. They deserve great credit for staying with it.”
It would be a great economic and morale booster for the town, he added.
“There is no doubt about it. The WestFest has probably been the most positive thing to happen in Newcastle West for a long, long time,” Patrick O’Donovan TD said.
“It shows Newcastle West in the most positive light”.
“We never imagined it would grow to the extent it has,” Ida Dunworth, the chairwoman of the festival said at this year’s launch. And she thanked the festival’s many sponsors, big and small, national and local.
“We would not be able to put on the festival without them,” she said.
For more information see WestFest.