South Armagh Halloween Festival a howling success

November 6, 2012

By Christine Keighery

South Armagh’s annual Halloween festival reached new heights last week as a series of spooktacular events and attractions saw thousands of Halloween revellers descend on Crossmaglen. Put together with limited funding, the fantastic festival drew crowds from far and wide, all eager to enjoy the delights of a veritable Halloween extravaganza, which eclipsed the successes of previous years.

Events kicked off on Sunday 28th October with a Vintage Tractor Run featuring all types of vintage vehicles, followed by a procession of Irish Rally Championship Cars.

The Fire Service played a key part in Sunday’s events with a Road Traffic Collision demonstration staged by a collaboration between the Crossmaglen and Dundalk Fire Services.

Fire officers also showed off their fire fighting skills on a high rise platform which towered above the buildings in Crossmaglen’s Square, in a display highlighting how blazes in high rise buildings are tackled.

There was plenty on offer for kids of all ages, with the Spooky Tunnel in the Youth club, proving a popular attraction, and Wednesday’s bouncy castle – one of the longest bouncy castles in Ireland, providing hours of fun for everyone.

Pumpkin carving, magic shows, bungee trampolines, face painting, treasure hunts, arts and crafts, life size cartoon characters and much more, kept kids entertained and amused throughout the festival, with the grand finale on Wednesday evening topping off a fantastic few days of Halloween fun for south Armagh.

Over four thousand people enjoyed the amazing fireworks display on Halloween night, followed by the colourful and quirky fancy dress parade, before being entertained by the Fuzzy Burgers who, along with the unique talents of the African drumming group, kept revellers bopping around the Square well into the night.

PJ Toale, from the South Armagh Safety Group, spoke to The Examiner about the unmitigated success of this year’s celebrations.

He paid tribute to everyone involved in making the South Armagh Halloween Festival such a fantastic event and said this year’s celebrations had far exceeded all expectations.

PJ expressed his pride in the community who had pulled together with such a limited budget to create a spectacular festival which drew crowds from counties Monaghan, Cavan, Antrim and Down, to name a few.  He told us that several groups from councils in Armagh and Banbridge had also attended the festival in an effort to “see how it’s done” and had commended all involved for putting together such an amazing series of events with such restricted funds.

Mr Toale said,

“The only way we could do this was with the help of the community.  Community is the key thing that rural areas have.  Without the support and input from the entire south Armagh community, this festival would not be the huge success it is.”

He paid particular thanks to the stewards who manned the event, keeping everyone safe, and also extended his thanks to the St Oliver Plunkett Youth Club, the Community Centre staff, the PCSP department of the Council, who were the lead funders of the festival, along with the Challenge of  Change department of the Council, who helped to promote the event in different dialects.

PJ thanked the invaluable contributions and input from The Fire and Rescue Service, SureStart, Crossmaglen Rangers, Watters Electrical, Cross Square Hotel, the South Armagh Safety Group, the Crossmaglen Community Association, Morton Fruit and Veg,  Superbites,  Holder Freight who supplied the stage and Mona McEntee for supplying food for the hard working stewards.

He paid special tribute to Councillors Terry Hearty and Colman Burns, who, he said, had been a constant source of guidance and advice in organising the festival.

The festival committee member added that the success of this year’s events only served to make the group more determined to create an even bigger and better festival for next year, undeterred by funding concerns.  He hopes that other community groups from Portadown and Banbridge will come on board and network with the group to enjoy the festival next year.

“We’ve achieved something fantastic in that we’re giving children and teenagers an outlet for enjoyment at Halloween.   Kids associate Halloween in south Armagh with the festival and not so much with mischief and wrongdoing in the community.   The festival brings everyone together in good spirits and all are safe and well at the end of a good natured and family friendly Halloween.”

Councillor Terry Hearty also expressed his pride in the South Armagh Community for delivering the hugely successful Halloween Festival.

Councillor Hearty hailed this year’s events as “bigger and better than ever.”  He too praised the efforts of the community, saying,

“This festival was so successful because of the input of the community. The funding for the festival was reduced from last year but with a great deal of work from the community and the voluntary sector they delivered an even more successful Halloween Festival. The laughter and screams from the haunted tunnel in St Oliver Plunkett youth club speaks for itself. “

Councillor Hearty continued,

“Once again this great success can be further built on. It could be part of the gathering of the clans for friends and relatives that emigrated, to gather in the South Armagh area. This would be an even greater boost for tourism in the area, a major help to hotels, restaurants and the bed and breakfast sector.

Mr Hearty echoed the thanks expressed by the South Armagh Safety Group and added,

“So many individuals helped out that it would be impossible to name them all, and it must be remembered that it would not have been so successful without the support of local families who brought their children out in such large numbers.”