Michelle Doyle and Chairman of the Festival, Padraig Hegarty.

Exciting river festival to showcase Viking settlement in Athlone

Athlone Viking River Fest will take place over the August Bank Holiday with a host of exciting events and activities planned for the weekend including a unique Viking settlement area.

The Viking settlement will be established from the Luan Gallery up to the White Bridge, across the road from Custume Barracks from Friday, August 2 to Sunday, August 4 with over 20 professional Vikings descending on Athlone for the weekend. Attendees will be amazed by the tented village, showcasing a wide array of craftsmen and unforgettable experiences for all ages. Witness blacksmiths forging mighty weapons, woodworkers crafting intricate designs, jewellery makers showcasing their stunning creations and more.

The festival offers locals the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Viking age with tablet weaving demonstrations, to savour medieval delicacies, have their fortune read through Rune readings, listen to captivating stories told by skilled storytellers, witness the grace of falconry displays, and feel the adrenaline as warriors re-enact thrilling Viking battles.

Chairman of the festival Padraig Hegarty said the stay in a “a special type of a tent" and will be making different crafts and different jewellery and showing swords, axes and bow and arrows. There will be an Irish Wolfhound there along with birds of prey.

There will also be street spectacle performance for the opening event on Friday, August 2. The organisers are looking for Snare Drummers, Drum Cores, Fire Breathers and Fire Performers to get in touch to participate in the event. Anyone interested in taking part should message Athlone Family Resource Centre on Facebook or email coordinator@afrc.ie with their details and estimated costings for one and a half hours' work on this date.

The Big Meadow Coarse-Angling two day match will take place on Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4. Mr Hegarty said: “I think there's 35 participants all across Ireland taking part. It's going to be the biggest course angle match in the country.” Mad Caps Coarse Angling Group is hosting the two day match which is already at capacity and the group hopes to make this an annual event.

The Taste of TUS food and craft micro village will be held on Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4 from behind Athlone Castle leading up to Luan Gallery. An open mic music tent will open there too in conjunction with Féile na Sionainne. Attendees are advised to go to the new greenway bridge. Anyone who wishes to operate a stall at the food and craft market should email Riverfestivalathlone@gmail.com.

The Athlone Number One (No. 1) Gun Battery will be open to the public on Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4 from midday. The gun batteries were originally built in 1805 to defend against a possible invasion and works began to uncover the battery and to clear vegetation in 2020. Recent works revealed the original structure and some interesting artifacts that tell us about the history of the site such as musket balls, Lee Enfield rifle bullets, an Óglaigh na hÉireann (Defence Forces) cap badge and a Queen Victoria uniform button.

The Chairman for the Festival said that the committee wants to make sure there is a lot of river activities to offer. “We're hoping and we're still waiting for people to sign up for kayak racing and that will be on Saturday if we can make it happen. That'll be by some of the Army personnel in the town who are in a kayaking club. They'll be doing races on the river. Athlone Boat Club will also be getting involved with some racing on the river.”

Athlone Sub Aqua will give a safety demonstration at the rear of Athlone Castle which will showcase life-saving techniques on Sunday, August 4. There will also be a number of free events happening in the castle.

Mr Hegarty said that it wasn't possible to hold the festival in recent years but they decided to “give it a go this year” and to have events that would capture the River Shannon as the centre point.

The full schedule of events will be released on the festival's social media channels in mid July.

The committee would like to thank Viking Mike who is the main sponsor for the event, Athlone FRC for supporting this year's events and planning various workshops and former chairman Damien Delaney who organised the last River Festival in 2019.

The festival is taking place in partnership with Féil na Sionainne which will be held in Athlone on the same weekend. The first ever Féile na Sionainne was held last August and, following on from its success, the organisers have been very busy behind the scenes to ensure that it grows from strength to strength for the August Bank Holiday.

The organisers of this year's Athlone River Festival have also set up a GoFundMe to to help fund the event.

The organisers issued the following statement on the GoFundMe page: “By contributing to our GoFundMe campaign, you're not just helping to fund an event, you're investing in the heart and soul of our community. Your support will go towards securing entertainment, activities, and ensuring that this year's festival is accessible to all.

“Together, we can turn Athlone into a Viking haven for a weekend, creating memories that will last a lifetime. So join us in rallying behind the Athlone River Festival and let's make this year's event one for the history books!”

Mr Hegarty said that the committee received a grant from Westmeath County Council but that they have a significant shortfall. A fundraiser cruise will take place on the River Shannon on July 4. Tickets cost €15 for an adult and €10 for a child. All proceeds will go towards the River Festival and tickets can be obtained by contacting Padraig Hegarty on 087 4586676.

To date the GoFundMe has raised €1,885 of its €5k target. To donate to the fundraiser visit www.gofundme.com/f/help-bring-athlones-river-festival-to-life.

For more information follow Viking River Fest Athlone on Facebook, @viking_river_festival_athlone on Instagram and @athloneriverfestival on TikTok.