"The totality of community support is what made the Euro-Festival so successful," Chairperson of the Euro Festival Organising Committee and Athlone Town Clerk, John Walsh reflected this week, as the dust settled on a hugely positive event, which brought colour, culture, fun and entertainment to the streets Athlone and to the hundreds of European visitors the area hosted for the seven days.
He was fulsome in his praise of the local support for the event, last held in Athlone in 1996, and of the council's backing in terms of funding and local sponsorship, without which the festivities could not have gone ahead.
"The support of local people all added to the great atmosphere we had throughout the week," he outlined, adding that the Civic Square and St Peter's Square showed their future potential as hosts of civic and entertainment functions. "The great number of European visitors we had this year also added greatly to the colour and festivities in the town," he enthused.
On Sunday, the festival kicked off in spectacular style as thousands came out to enjoy a colourful and spectacular grand opening parade with participants from the countries represented, marching bands, street theatre, stilt walkers, clowns and face painters delighting the attendance, both young and old.
A special Euro Village was hosted in Main Street featuring a stall from every nation participating, while a myriad of exhibitions, community events, sporting competitions and lunchtime recitals were also a huge draw for local people and visitors, most notably a large amount of families who turned out for the free events. Nightly concerts proved highly popular drawing hundreds of people on to the streets to enjoy the free music and entertainment, all of which boosted local businesses, particularly the food and beverage sector.
It was earlier estimated that the festival would boost local business to the tune of up to €4 million locally during the coarse of the festivities.
"I'd like to thank the Mayor and the council who put up the finance for the festival and all the committee members and council staff for the work they did throughout the week. Also, the volunteers who supported us and came forward in big numbers, all of whom the festival wouldn't have been possible," Mr Walsh added. He also paid tribute to major sponsors The Defence Forces, An Garda Siochana, Order of Malta, Athlone Sub Aqua Club and Gallico Developments, The Bower and the Marist schools, who provided accommodation for the host countries.
"Everyone said it was the most successful event to date," the Athlone Town Clerk outlined, adding when the festival was last in the town back in 1996, it was totally different town. This time around, facilities were much better, he said.
"I think the Hungarian town, and their Mayor was in Athlone and was very impressed with the standard, ... they certainly have a big job to succeed us next year," Mr Walsh concluded, pointing out that the amount of other visitors the festival drew into Athlone during the week also gave the area a much needed economic boost to the local economy.
Carmel Duffy, also a prominent member of the Euro Festival Organising Committee commented all the hard work since last September was certainly worth it as the town put its best foot forward in a magnificent manner.
"It was incredible, what made it for me was the amount of families who were out with the grandparents and relatives. There was just a fantastic atmosphere in town and a great buzz all week," she said. "I spoke to a lot of traders throughout and they were very positive in terms of the amount of visitors and the amount of people who came to town and stayed for the week."
The free musical events proved a great draw, as did the sporting events where Team Ireland triumphed over the 14 other competing countries but for Ms Duffy the undoubted highlight was the opening parade.
"There was an incredible atmosphere, colour and a feeling of anticipation of the week ahead. For us, we were also anxious it would go well," she added, praising the huge number of people, and organisations who contributed to the festival effort, along with the main organising committees and sub-committees.
She is also incredibly heartened by the positive feedback from over 700 European visitors from 14 countries, who have taken to
Facebook since returning home to give the organisers the thumbs up!
"I'm really delighted for the committee because we put their heart and soul into it. We wanted it to go well for Athlone and it established a showcase for Athlone to Europe. Having been involved in 1996 and 2010 and for everyone to say it was even better festival this time around is just brilliant," Carmel Duffy concluded.