Local community groups recognised at recent Croí na hÉireann awards presentation ceremony

ronan fagan

The comfortable setting of the Sheraton Athlone Hotel was the setting for the Croí na hÉireann Festival awards presentation ceremony on Friday night last.

The awards ceremony was the final act of the 2024 festival recognising the contributions of local community organisations who participated in the much lauded five day event in March.

The full house, with all participating clubs and organisations in Athlone represented, embraced the fabulous entertainment provided with notable contributions from Comhaltas Ath Luain and Feile na Sionnaine, St Mary’s Karate Club, Na Fianna, Rinka, Rhythms Gymnastics and the Luan Academy of Irish Dance.

During his address Festival chairman, John Henson, welcomed all to the awards ceremony and paid tribute to all the coaches, mentors and volunteers who continuously give of their own free time to nurture and develop the next generation instilling pride, confidence, friendship and teamwork.

“These traits will help shape the lives of these young children and the long term benefits will stand them in good stead throughout their lives,” Mr Henson said.

The chairman emphasised the ethos of the organising committee as one of inclusion, equality and welcome and above all catering for youth in every way possible.

“It was heartening to witness the cross section of all community and ethnic groups involved in this year’s Croi na hÉireann Festival all of whom were comfortable in each other’s company,” Mr Henson added.

Mr Henson noted that the St Patrick’s Day parade was one of the best attended in Athlone for many years, such is the escalating popularity of the five day festival.

“Apart from the escalating numbers in attendance, complemented by the cultural and historical aspect of the parade, the benefit to our local economy must be noted. A wet Bank Holiday Monday afternoon is usually when visitors depart our town on their respective journeys home, but on this particular day the crowds began arriving into Athlone in the early afternoon and stayed for the duration of the parade and beyond.

“If a very conservative estimate of €15 euro was spent by everyone on lunch, coffee, chips, sweets and soft drinks, the benefit to our local economy over a three hour period was between €90,000 to €100,000.

“The committee intends to expand the festival annually and while a five day event will most likely take place in 2025, we will be looking to broaden our visitor base and welcome back many visitors from the USA and Europe. Our goal is to shine a light on Athlone internationally and highlight all it has to offer the visitor.

“We are indebted to our very generous and loyal group of sponsors without whom this festival would not be the success it is. In saying this we would appeal to other businesses to come on board and support us, particularly those who benefit directly from the footfall but do not contribute in any way,” he added.

“Our intended festival expansion will be expensive and while the parade may not pass by your business door, the sons and daughters of your best customers may be taking part,” Mr Henson stated.

Echoing similar sentiments, committee treasurer, congratulated the all those who received an award during the ceremony, the main parade category winners being Athlone GAA club (sporting ), Athlone Order of Malta (community ) and Luan Academy of Irish Dance (cultural ).

“Special congratulations is further afforded to Athlone GAA club on being selected the overall winner for best parade entry,” Cll Keena commented.

The councillor also noted that as the national feast day falls on a bank holiday Monday in 2025, the St Patrick’s Day parade would take place on this particular date.

“We are delighted to have build up a great working relationship with many float providers, bands and local groups and we are looking forward to having them all participating on that day,” Cllr Keena concluded.


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