Pumpkin Festival Report 2008
Virginia Pumpkin Festival 2008
The east Cavan town of Virginia was a blaze of colour over the October Bank Holiday Weekend as the Second Annual Pumpkin Festival held the locals and thousands of visitors enthralled.
The festivities kicked off on Friday night with the lights of the town being extinguished and the illumination of the carved pumpkins in the town windows. This set the atmosphere for the fire parade which followed where local lantern- carrying children combined with majestic fire eaters, stilt walkers, samba music and nubile dancers to form a colourful and visually exciting spectacle. The parade wound its way up the Main Street delighting the large crowd of adults and children who were keen to show their appreciation. Then came the Finale when lighted lanterns were raised high into the sky by means of a crane to form a Giant Chandelier .This was a fantastic sight which will be sure to remain in the memories of all present. As the giant chandelier hung high above the Festival Podium Brush Shields and his band took to the stage where he proceeded to entertain the crowd for two hours. For many of the young people in the audience this was their first time to see Brush live and he impressed them with his lively and energetic performance. For the older generation it was a chance to recapture some of the musical memories of their youth.
Saturday started off quietly and the inclement weather made it difficult for people to enjoy the wares of the brave stallholders who displayed diverse products from Indian samosas to French crepes at the artisan food and craft exhibition on the Church of Ireland Green. Likewise the family treasure hunt on foot around the town was not for the faint hearted. Those who braved the elements were rewarded with thought provoking clues.
Saturday afternoon was focussed on the children. A full house enjoyed The Grandmother a play in the Ramor Theatre. The fancy dress party in Virginia College was a great success. Up to 500 children came dressed in fantastic costumes and they were treated to food and drink, magical entertainment, face painting and a lively disco.
On Saturday evening there was an air of expectation in the town as people made their way from near and far to see The musical gig of the year Sharon Shannon, Mundyand Shane Mc Gowan .There was good humoured banter and a fantastic atmosphere as the people made their way to the pumpkin marquee. The ticket office was doing a brisk trade as was the temporary ATM machine on the main street.
There are marquees and then there is The PumpkinMarquee. Nobody could fail to be impressed by the Pumpkin Marquee which certainly had the wow factor both in terms of design and execution. Let the music begin.
Support band Jamim got the show on the road and they were well received by the audience. Sharon Shannon and her Big Band then took to the stage and the tiny girl from Clare made big time music. She played all her favourites including The Blackbird to the delight of her fans. Mundy joined her on stage and this really upped the tempo. He played some of his own songs July and Mexico and Also some Thin Lizy numbers. He had the place rocking. But for some this was not enough and it was evident that the one the audience really wanted was Shane Mc Gowan. He made his entrance to a tremendous reception. He started singing and the marquee became electric He sang The IrishRover and Rainy night in Soho and that perennial favourite Fairytale of New York. It had by this stage reached fever pitch. Shane gave of his best and proved that rumours of his demise are greatly exaggerated. The concert finished on a high with a rousing rendition of The Galway Girl featuring all three artists. One knew that this was something special, that people would remember this gig for a long time. It was hard to believe we were in Virginia.
Sunday was all about Pumpkins. The large pumpkins were displayed on the Festival Podium under the watchful eye of Donal Mc Evoy. These pumpkins were competing for a prize fund of ‚ Euro 3,000 and had come from as far away as Louth, Dublin , Kildare and Longford. Also on display were two pumpkins from Italy whose lady owners had over the previous days sampled the hospitality of Virginia and surrounding areas. A special treat was in store for the festival goers in the form of the largest European Pumpkin which had been displayed with the kind permission of its owners Ian and Stuart Paton from Southampton. Weighing an incredible 1466lb it was a spectacle to behold.
Parents availed of the opportunity to get photographs of their young children with the pumpkins before escorting them and their teddy bears to the Teddy Bears Picnic in Virginia College. Later on the street, the business people of Virginia in their fancy dress competed in the Pumpkin Olympics. From relay races and pumpkin skittles to shovel and pumpkin races the competition was intense and the commentary of Pumpkin King, Martin Tynan kept the public informed. The Cup was presented to Margo Keating captain of the winning Riverside team.
The weigh in of the pumpkins took place on the Festival Podium to the commentary of Eoin Mc Connon. The owners watched nervously as their years work was measured and weights compared. The winners were declared and the prizes presented (see results below)
Having had their appetite whetted on Friday night large crowds made their way into the town on Sunday evening to enjoy the spectacular street parade. The parade was led by a Horse drawn Pumpkin Carriage with the festival King and Queen, followed by The Virginia Gospel choir carrying lanterns. Then followed a host of fire eaters, dramatically costumed characters, flame throwers, samba musicians, stilt walkers and exotic dancers. The parade was filled with colour and noise and was visually spectacular. If it wasn€™t for the sub zero temperatures one could think it was Madri Gras and they were in Rio.
A large crowd of up to seven thousand followed the parade down to the shores of Lough Ramor where they got ready to view the fireworks which were being fired from the golf club at The Park Hotel. Brightly lit Lanterns were pulled over the lake in a line to a large pontoon in the centre of the lake. The pontoon had a large pumpkin lit on it and this formed a luminous orange background. Then the big fireworks display commenced and it was truly magnificent. It could be seen for miles around. The crowd were enthralled. Parents took their children home very excited after their great day of entertainment at the Pumpkin festival.
As one crowd left the town a new crowd emerged on the main street. All sizes and shapes of fancy dress costumes were on show. There was barely breathing room in the towns hostelries as people came dressed in all types of ensembles, literally everything but the kitchen sink. Later on the Pumpkin Marquee was filled to capacity as the revellers danced to the music of Lightning Strikes. Then followed some great disco music from Ali B and they danced the night away. The winners of the fancy dress were chosen by Sonja and John Davison organisers of the Southampton Pumpkin festival who had travelled over for the weekend. Everyone went home tired but happy having enjoyed a fantastic weekend of fun in Virginia.
Monday, the clean up began and the townspeople reflected on a very successful weekend where their numbers had been swelled by more than ten thousand visitors. Already people were thinking about next year€™s festival
- Michael Byrne, Co. Louth 547 lb
- Michael Byrne Co Louth 403.4 lb
- Oisin Byrne Co. Louth 363.8 lb
- Eoin Sullivan Co Louth 324.5 lb
- Finbarr Feehan Fitzgerald Co. Louth 298.7 lb
- Benny Smith Co Monaghan 293.32 lb
- James Mahon Co. Kildare 156.67 lb
- Eugene Brady Co. Longford146.67 lb
- Eugene Brady Co. Longford 141.1lb
- Frances and Ceelan Lynch Cross 66.1lb
- Maebh Gallagher Sandycove 42lb
- Emily Logan, Virginia 13.2lb
Patrick Sullivan Co. Louth
- Jack Tillion
- Dermot O Reilly
- Ellie Fay-Fodan
- Dan Roberts, Co. Down.
- Emma Reilly, Cross
- Niall Lynch, Oldcastle
Virginia Pumpkin Festival Committee 2008
Chairman - Jimmy Murray
Secretary - Rita Martin
Treasurer - Joan Lambe
PRO - John O Reilly
Growers Coordinator - Donal Mc Evoy
Vice chairman - Davy Sheridan
Eithne Barry, Michael Barry, Markus Hofmann, Eddie Matthews, Sean Mc Evoy, Eugene O Dwyer