Killaloe – There was a lot of green in the streets of the village named after a small town in Ireland as the Irish Gathering celebrated its 10th anniversary.
“I was so blown away by how amazing it was,” Chris Neff, a member of the organizing committee and the community development officer for Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards (KHR), said on Monday. “There was just a great energy all weekend.”
It was the 10th gathering in Killaloe and it was a time to celebrate heritage, family and enjoy all things Irish, including the first ever beer garden this year. Last week the village started to turn green in anticipation of the event and Mr. Neff said that was a good indication of the community interest and enthusiasm.
“People were putting out their decorations and green hats,” he said.
The fun in the village started with darts and euchre during the week and by Friday there were numerous activities including the graveyard tours, Irish tea and entertainment at Station Park. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great on Friday night, but Mr. Neff said this did not deter about 100 people from converging on the part to enjoy Brandy and Port.
“We had a good turnout on Friday night even though the weather was not great, so I thought we would be busy Saturday,” he said. “On Saturday, I was there at 7 o’clock in the morning with the set up and Saturday turned out to be one of the nicest days of the whole summer.”
The weather wasn’t too hot or too cold and the sun was shining on the Irish as they came to the village to enjoy the Farmer’s Market, carnival, parade and other activities. The music was a big draw and it all began at noon with Gail Gavan and Friends, continuing on with many local favourites and the crowds were there to enjoy it.
One of those in the crowd was from the Irish Embassy in Ottawa. Mr. Neff said it was wonderful to meet Elizabeth O’Higgins, Second Secretary, and for her to be able to enjoy some Irish hospitality in Killaloe.
Vendors were busy on the weekend and the stores in town saw an influx of traffic as well.
“This is an economic engine too,” he said. “It brings people to the community.”
For the kids, the slip and slide kept busy all day and there were activities of interest for all ages, he said.
“People were excited about the Irish Gathering,” he said. “We had amazing music. It was awesome to get the beer garden going for the first time and it was fantastic.
“I really feel the whole event went well,” he said. “There were lots of people in the village and the parade went well. I’m thankful for all the support we had in the community.”
For this was very much a community event. Started by a core group of community volunteers, the event has continued on with the support of the municipality. Mr. Neff said his role is to deal with some of the organization and logistics, but nothing would be possible without the organizing committee, as well as the community groups in the village which support the event by putting on different activities.
“KHR’s role is to provide the structure and I make sure everything came together,” he said. “But this isn’t possible without the community and volunteers.”
The Irish Gathering pre-dates his time at the municipality, but it is great to see it continuing to be so popular and well received, he said.
“It is so cool to think it has been happening for 10 years,” he said. “Our MC, Ambrose Mullin, said it so well. This is like a homecoming for people. We have been doing it for 10 years and it is on a roll.”
Mr. Neff said this is part of what has established Killaloe’s reputation as a small community which puts on a great party.
“Be it Canada Day or the Irish Gathering, this is a small community which puts on a lot of great events. This is coming together and celebrating,” he said. “Killaloe is always able to put on a good shindig.”
This year the 10th anniversary was dedicated to former committee member and tireless community volunteer Danny Harrington. Mr. Neff said Mr. Harrington loved music and activities, “so instead of a moment of silence, it was a moment of ruckus.”
For his own part, he enjoyed celebrating his own Irishness on the weekend.
“I’m definitely Irish and there is a tradition of putting on something just to celebrate,” he said. “It is being Irish. I love my job. Maybe that is the Irish in me.”
Mayor Presents Bouquet
Mayor Dave Mayville had the honour of presenting a bouquet of flowers to Ms. O’Higgins, Second Secretary from the Irish Embassy in Ottawa, and then extended thanks on behalf of himself and council to Mr. Neff “for an unbelievable job” organizing the celebration. He told the crowd the spirit of the Irish festival has always been one of friendship.
“It’s about our community coming together to celebrate the Irish heritage of the Ottawa Valley,” he said. “As one of the original Irish Gathering volunteers from 10 years ago, I recognize that enormous volunteer effort in making an Irish Gathering a success each year. It is proof of the ongoing spirit of this community.
“Volunteers have a significant impact on generating the many events that make up an Irish Gathering so thank you to all the volunteers who gave of their time to make this event one we can be proud of.”
Mayor Mayville also paid tribute to the late Danny Harrington, one of the Gathering’s greatest supporters.
“The Irish Gathering clearly makes us feel good and creates a sense of pride in where we live, to allow us to understand that our active participation and watchful eye on local history makes us all the keepers of our past,” he said.
Ms. O’Higgins said she was delighted to be in Killaloe, adding it was amazing to see such a strong community.
“I only arrived in Canada about three months ago and I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the country,” she said. “Everywhere I go I see how proud people are of their Irish heritage and how connected people are to Ireland. I think events like this really epitomize the strong connection between our two countries.
“Not only do they let people connect with their Irish heritage and their Irish roots, but they bring people together and do something bigger which I think deepens the bonds between Ireland and Canada as well.”