NEXT month’s Heineken Westfest in Newcastle West will be an ideal opportunity for the county town to showcase the strength and variety of its businesses, organisers believe.
The four day event, which runs from September 8-11, will be an extravaganza of live music and family entertainment that will bring a summer festival back to Newcastle West, after the old Knights of Desmond contest ended in the mid 1990s.
While Westfest has received headline sponsorship from Heineken and large local companies Pallas Foods and Ballygowan, it is also being backed by a myriad of small traders in the town.
Ida Dunworth, a member of the Newcastle West Business Association and the Westfest organising committee, said that the anticipation of thousands of expected visitors has energised the town.
“This is the county town. You want people from outside Newcastle West to say ‘fair play to them, they’re putting their best foot forward and they’re doing something’.
“It’s not just about getting people from Newcastle West to come along, but people from all over as well. That’s why we’re putting so much emphasis on putting up posters and doing ads. This is going to be huge for the whole area”.
The centrepiece of the Westfest weekend will be a specially-erected ‘gig rig’ in the square, opposite the Desmond Castle, which will feature live music every night. Headline act Mundy takes to the stage on Saturday night, while up-and-coming Limerick band Hermitage Green will open the festival on Thursday evening.
Littered throughout the weekend will be a number of fun, off-kilter events such as a stretcher race, a barman’s race, a ‘zumbathon’ fitness concert, a rubber duck race, rodeo competition and a trolley dash.
However, the festival gets off to an unofficial start on Wednesday September 7 in the Courtenay Lodge Hotel, when a fashion show and local business expo takes place.
Ms Dunworth said that Wednesday night’s event will be about providing a platform for those local businesses who have helped sponsor Westfest, even though they won’t have any direct benefit from a weekend of revelry.
“We’ve nearly 200 businesses here, and the vast majority have supported us and made a contribution. A lot of them won’t be getting anything out of it directly, but they know that this is something that can really help put us on the map.
“The business showcase is a chance for the boutiques and clothes shops and other people to just put out a stall and show what they’re all about.”
The only event of the weekend that people will have to pay to enter will be a family fun day in the Demesne on Sunday, which will feature a €1,000 Donkey Derby, trolley dash and rodeo competition.
A fund raising concert to benefit the Brothers of Charity Services in Newcastle West and Crumlin Children’s Hospital, which is also happening on Sunday, has now filled up with local musical acts.
Ms Dunworth said that while Westfest will generate business for Newcastle West, it will just as importantly provide “a morale boost” for the entire town.
She added that the wheels have already been set in motion to turn it into an annual fixture.
“We didn’t put in all this work for just one year. The first time out is always going to be the hardest, but next year we’ll know what works, and we can make sure this grows into something terrific.”
Ms Dunworth also thanked Limerick County Council and the local gardai for their assistance with preparations.