Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Week of celebrations starts with a bang in Limerick

LOCATION: Southern Correspondent, in Limerick
DATE: Irish Times - Monday, March 15, 2010
DETAILS: ST PATRICK'S DAY FESTIVAL: LIMERICK MAY well have lost a minister, a bishop and its biggest employer and be forced to field a second-string hurling team, but the Shannonsiders launched the St Patrick's Day Festival in style at the weekend when they hosted the National Lottery's Skyfest.

Munster provided the backdrop for the last two National Lottery Skyfests when the Rock of Cashel hosted the event in 2008 and the Waterford quays hosted the event in 2009. On Saturday night, The Treaty City completed a hat-trick of Munster successes.

Limerick combined the best of both its predecessors with St John's Castle providing the historic setting reminiscent of Cashel and the broad majestic Shannon, like the Suir last year, providing an ideal reflective foil to amplify the effect of the fireworks.

With Moyross's finest Keith Earls already illuminating Croke Park with a brace of tries against the Welsh on Saturday afternoon, the portents were good as Limerick's Geri Maye from RTÉ got the ball rolling.

Close to 60,000 people had thronged Sarsfield's Bridge and Thomond Bridge to watch what promised to be the biggest spectacular to light up the Treaty City sky since Patrick Sarsfield blew up King William's ammunition train at Ballyneety during the Siege of Limerick.

Sarsfield himself would have been proud of the efforts of Skyfest veterans, Anglo-Irish- Dubai consortium Pains Fireworks, who came up trumps yet again with another pyrotechnic extravaganza that had both young and old gasping in awe and wonder.

The display, which was broadcast on RTÉ 1, began at 7.40pm with a fusillade of rockets soaring heavenwards. For the next 20 minutes, the velvety navy sky was lit up with exploding puffballs, crackling whizzers and arching tinsels in an awesome display of firework wizardry.

Perhaps most impressive in the fireworks firmament were what seemed like fountaining sheafs of silver corn that burst up from beneath the battlements of St John's Castle to arc on to the river where they settled like a flock of luminous swans before fading out.

St John's Castle is owned by Shannon Development.

Its Limerick development manager Eoghan Prendergast was impressed by Skyfest and he expressed confidence that the weekend's events, including the International Band Festival, would be a huge boost to the city.

Also enjoying the evening was former Mayor of Limerick, councillor John Gilligan, who, along with his son, Barry, and his grandson Joe Considine (7), was hugely impressed as he nodded – metaphorically – towards the arching half-domes of Thomond Park in the distance.

"It's absolutely fabulous," Mr Gilligan said, "and it's telling people all around the country what rugby fans from all over the world have known — that Limerick is a great place, this is the real Limerick with a great tradition and a magnificent river and they're all more than welcome to join us here."

Among the international visitors was charge d'affaires at the US embassy Robert J Faucher from Phoenix, Arizona, his wife, Noraly, and daughters Melissa and Stephanie, who, after three years in Ireland, were finally catching up with their first Skyfest.


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