“If St. Brigid’s Day could get even a small slice of St. Patrick’s market, that would be amazing.”
As families relax in the unfamiliar landscape of the new February bank holiday weekend, it could herald the start of something much bigger.
Although tourism associations have announced the new public holiday Imbolg/St. Keep an eye on Monday’s Brigid’s Day in the early days for its potential to develop into a new national festival that could offer a welcome cash boost in the lean months.
It’s not such a fancy option.
From humble beginnings with tractor wagons and shamrocks, the St Patrick’s Day Festival evolved when it was staged at a professional level in 1996 and has steadily grown to the extent that it is now worth €50m to Dublin’s economy, proving that “ if you build it, they will come’.
But how successful a new festival might be is difficult to gauge, officials admit, and “nothing serious” has been done to gauge its potential value.
“If this is the first time it’s happening there are no historical figures to go by,” said Tourism Ireland’s Sinéad Grace.
“It’s a new angle for us and it’s a new hook for us to promote Ireland abroad but from next year we will really start to see the potential – depending on the scale of the celebrations from next year.”
It is understood that for the time being the Ministry of Tourism is not focused on the idea of a central festival, but this year has focused on collecting information about the various events taking place.
“There may be scope in the future to capitalize on this, but we’re not there yet,” a source said.
But local tourist groups in the heartland of St Brigid in Co Kildare are confident they have what it takes to carve a genuine national festival on the foundations of old.
For next year to celebrate the 1,500. Death of St. Brigid plans are already underway.
“This year is just the beginning but we felt strongly that it was highlighted to prepare people for next year,” said Áine Mangan, CEO of tourism group Into Kildare.
“If you look at the St. Patrick’s Festival and how it started – if we could get a little part of it that would be great.”
This is traditionally a quiet time in Kildare compared to the Punchestown racing festival which attracts more than 100,000 visitors while the Irish Open golf tournament draws 25,000 daily visitors over four days.
“Why shouldn’t Brigid bring some of that in – it has to start somewhere,” remarked Ms Mangan.
Jim Murphy, CEO of Prem Hospitality group, which operates more than 30 hotels in Ireland and Europe, said: “It’s so new it crept up on us, but we’re all excited about this weekend – it comes at a great time of the year we need a break.”
If successful, this new bank holiday could change the traditional doldrums at the start of the year, he hopes, and coupled with Valentine’s Day on the 14th it could mean they can plan to open their Killarney hotel a month earlier than usual.
William Doyle, CEO of Newbridge Silverware, which also runs the Museum of Style Icons, said the new break had huge potential for tourism both locally and internationally, while it was also warmly welcomed by the Kildare Village outlet.
But amid the commercial possibilities there is still room for the spiritual.
Sr Rita Minehan, from Solas Bhríde Center in Kildare, said they had seen a large influx of visitors from Sweden, Portugal, the US and England who had come to learn more about Ireland’s lesser-known patron saint.
“It’s wonderful because it’s something new,” she said.
“It is an awakening of the equal dignity of women and men nationally. It is absolutely wonderful that we have a female voice again there.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/if-st-brigids-day-could-get-even-a-small-slice-of-the-st-patricks-market-it-would-be-amazing-42327401.html “If St. Brigid’s Day could get even a small slice of St. Patrick’s market, that would be amazing.”