Sword swallowers, jugglers and daredevils are descending on Portlaoise next month to compete for the title of Street Performance World Champion.
The real winners will be the estimated 20,000 people who can come and watch the performers in the People’s Park on the Timahoe Road and vote for their favourite, all for free on the weekend of June 11 and 12.
Billed as Ireland’s highest attended annual free family event after St Patrick’s Day, the award winning championship is in its sixth year, and festival producer Dan Belton explained why they’ve added Portlaoise to their Dublin and Cork locations.
“It’s a gorgeous park, easy to get to, with good infrastructure. It’s down to the help of Laois people that has made it happen, Ultimately we want to hold it nationwide, in six or seven locations.” he said.
The only competition of its kind in Europe, it attracts the cream of world talent, with 1,000 applicants vying for one of the 24 places, and the honour of the 2011 title.
Last year’s winner was for the first time Irish. Jack Wise attended the launch at County Hall last Monday, giving a display of his skills. He found the title of great benefit during his reign.
“It opened a lot of doors, I got a lot of publicity and business from it,” said the self taught sword swallower and magician, who will be performing in Portlaoise. The Cork event will run simultaneously, with Dublin on the following weekend.
On Sunday June 12 the public can partake in a world record attempt, the most people dressed as ‘Wally’, with outfits available online at www.spwc.ie. A percentage of sales will go to the charity Africa Aware.
The festival is supported by Laois County Council, along with Laois Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce, Laois Vintners and the Leinster Express.
“We are trying to build up the town as an event destination, and hoping to create a bit of a feelgood factor,” said Ian McCormack of Laois County Council, who pointed out that the Heartlands Car Rally will be on the same weekend.
Extra parking off the Timahoe Road is under discussion, with hopes for space for 2,000 cars, while the Gardaí and Civil Defence will be on hand over the weekend, which just needs a bit of sunshine now to make it one to remember.