There were a right lot of howyas outside the Ashbrook Arms in Durrow last Thursday.
It was all the doing of committee chairman Hugh Sheppard who insisted that all gathered for the launch of next month’s Howya festival, turn to the person beside them and greet them in the time honoured Irish fashion. It put a smile on everyone’s face, exactly the reaction that the unique festival, which features the All Ireland Scarecrow Championships, seems to have on all who visit it.
Running from July 24 to August 1, this year’s event promises even more than the inaugural Howya Festival last year, which brought 10,000 visitors and a much needed injection of money to the village, which has been hard hit by emigration and business closures.
The official ribbon was cut by Moneygall celebrities Henry Healy and Ollie Hayes, who know too well what can be achieved by a small village with big ambitions, having just had President Obama and his wife to visit. Ollie Hayes had rousing words for all.
“There’s fierce energy in Durrow. The small villages have been forgotton. Occasions like this are the only way to get out of trouble. When Dulux came to tell us about the free paint, the town hall was packed, it didn’t disperse until two hours after the meeting, because everyone was talking to their neighbours. We have to stand up and be counted,” he urged.
Michael Bergin of festival sponsors Laois Partnership, complimented the committee on their hard work.
“They put in a huge amount of voluntary effort and are a tremendous benefit to the community, we are delighted to offer them grant aid. The community sector is vital for future recovery, particularly in Laois where we don’t have multinationals and are not likely to have them in the future. I wish them well,” he said.
Dom Reddin is acting officer for Laois Tourism, who also sponsor the Howya Festival.
“I congratulate the local committee. Tourism is one of the things that will help the country get back on its feet again,” he said.
The popular scarecrow trail around the village is back this year, with jarvey jaunts for those not wishing to go on foot. A family picnic, duck derby, polo, soccer and hurling championships, markets and music, it’s a packed schedule for the week. New this year is a High Nelly Rally, led by the newly formed Durrow High Nelly Cycling Club. A children’s festival camp will take place in the Scarecrow Village all week, providing a host of activities from zumba dancing and drama to arts and crafts.
See www.howya.ie and read the Leinster Express for more details closer to the festival.