Port to celebrate French connection

A select group of local people gathered at O’Dea’s pub in Portarlington to celebrate the town’s “Paris of the Midlands” status by launching this year’s Festival de Français.

A select group of local people gathered at O’Dea’s pub in Portarlington to celebrate the town’s “Paris of the Midlands” status by launching this year’s Festival de Français.

The weekend festivities will get underway from Friday to Sunday, July 13-15. The festival will pay celebrate Portarlington’s historical French connections.

There will be many events on offer for both young and old from live music, sports games, street entertainers and workshops specialising in art, cooking and dancing.

The Festive Friday street party will start celebrations off with a bang at the Square at 7pm. This will follow the official opening and balloon launch at 8pm.

The street market on Saturday will allow visitors to sample many French delights on the main street. Duked Productions Company hopes to entertain people with their modern version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest at St. Paul’s Church at 1.30pm. The “Itchy Feet” workshop will then encourage amateurs to take up drumming lessons at the Parochial Hall at 4pm.

The fun continues on Sunday with the 5K Fun Run/Walk at the Parochial Hall at 9am. Musicians and singers will have the opportunity to participate in the busking competition at the Square at lunch time. If music is not your strength, then kayaking will be held on the Barrow River at 2pm. Finally, the famous snail-eating championship hopes to entice many courageous participants.

On the lead-up to the events, a queen will be selected at the Festival Queen final on the June 30. The winner will then represent Portarlington at the Laois Rose finals.

The music line-up this year promises to be energetic throughout the three days and will feature soul and cover bands such as Soulset, Bluemoose, The Queen Experience and many more.

Arlene Foy, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the organising committee announced a fresher, more eye-catching program for 2012:

“We’ve introduced a couple of changes this year. For example, there will be a Festive Friday street party instead of a parade. On Saturday, there will be a new drumming lessons workshop and also a mini tour de Port, which we hope to turn into an annual event,” she said.

Councillors Paul Mitchell and Eddie Fitzpatrick praised the hard work and commitment of those involved in the preparations for the festival.

The committee is positive that the festival will attract a lot of festival-goers following the publicity that Portarlington received on RTE’s Dirty Old Towns programme.

This year’s organising committee includes Kieran O’Dea (Chairperson), Padraig Dunne (Vice Chairperson), Carmel Dunne (Secretary), Mary Foy (Ass. Secretary), Arlene Foy (PRO), Lynne Cobbe (Treasurer), Eoghan Coffey (Ass. Treasurer) and supporters Niall Coffey, Kevin Bracken and Reece Wardrop.

Local traders and sponsors who are supporting the festival include Laois County Council, Laois Partnership, 2020 Vision, Portarlington Community Development and Offaly County Development.