Durrow’s scarecrows could be in jeopardy

DURROW Development Forum (DDF) are calling on local businesses to come together and help keep the Durrow Scarecrow Festival alive for another year.

DURROW Development Forum (DDF) are calling on local businesses to come together and help keep the Durrow Scarecrow Festival alive for another year.

Now in its fourth year, the festival is no longer eligible for funding from Laois Partnership (as their funding only extends to three years), leaving a shortfall of up to €20,000 to be raised.

Last year’s festival raised €16,000 which will be used as part of the community’s share towards the regeneration of the square in the village. The community needs €30,000 for their share and this year the festival needs €14,000 towards this contibution, plus another €5,000 for securing bridging finance.

The DDF have already called on local businees to come on board and sponsor the festival, in exchange for advertising, but at the time of going to print only seven out of 30 businesses asked had responded to the request for sponsorship.

“We are not fundraising for the festival, we are looking for sponsorship from the businesses and clubs in exchange for advertising and we view the festival as the fundraiser. DDF are certainly rising to the challenge and we hope that the people of Durrow and beyond will support our efforts”, said DDF member Marian Mahony.

Last year saw the profile of the festival raised to a national level, when the name was changed and it was covered across a host of nationwide media outlets. The festival was also nominated for the ‘Best Festival of 2012’ in the Irish Times Ticket awards.

Based on surveys of approximately 80 people completed by the DDF after each year’s festival, the forum estimates that the Durrow Scarecrow Festival is worth in the region of €200,000 per year to the local economy.

As well as this, each year the festival has been attracting more and more visitors from outside the county. In 2011, the DDF post festival survey estimated that 20% of respondants travelled from outside Laois, while in 2012, this number rose to 35%. Speaking to the Leinster Express, Marian said that the Scarecrow Festival attracted 13,000 people last year.

“Every effort is made by DDF to ensure that the festival goer sees the whole town. Our Scarecrow Trail and treasure hunt is devised to bring the festival goer past the businesses, so for their contribution the get 13,000 people passing their door; they get advertised in 2,000 brochures, and on the website, which last year during the festival had 14,000 page views”.

“The absence of the festival would have a hugely negative impact on the local economy, not to mention the business community. This is a family friendly festival which brings the community of Durrow together and showcases Durrow to the rest of Ireland”, added Marian. “DDF have worked so hard over the last few years to make this a festival of national acclaim. We have all worked tirelessly and voluntarily in this regard and the festival takes months of planning, not to metion the physical labour involved. If the festival couldn’t go ahead this year, we would all be crestfallen and the question would remain - how are we going to raise money for the square?”