With a food festival and a French Market, local bands for all musical tastes, lectures and exhibitions, this year’s Derby Festival from June 17 to 26 promises to be a whirlwind of fun for Kildare town.
It’s the 33rd year of the festival, which is held annually in Kildare town the week before the running of the Derby at the Curragh Racecourse.
It’s battled through lean years and celebrated good times, when the sponsorship money was rolling in, and its survival is a tribute to the dedicated organising committee, who have kept the ‘local people’s’ link to the racing festival alive since 1978.
The official launch of this year’s programme was held at the National Stud last Thursday, June 2. It was hosted by Stud CEO John Osborne, fresh from his stint as host to Queen Elizabeth during her recent visit to the Tully tourist attraction, and attended by the Curragh Racecourse’s Evan Arkwright, local politicians and organisers.
This year’s festival kicks off with the selection of the Kildare Derby Queen on Friday, June 17, at the Derby House Hotel (see side panel).
On Saturday, June 18, Day one of the Paddy Flanagan Memorial cycle race, starts at Monasterevin Road in Kildare. The event, in memory of the legendary local cyclist, will conclude on Sunday morning.
The Kildare Derby Festival Parade starts at 2pm on Sunday at St Brigid’s Park, and other highlights of Sunday include the ‘Taste of Kildare’ feestival in Market Square and the Dog Show in St Brigid’s Park. Flock of Budgies and Seven Days will headline a free open-air concert in Market Square that evening.
Monday will see the first day of a week-long French Market in Market Square and the launch of art and photography exhibitions in Aras Bhride.
The Guy Williams Lecture on ‘Royalty in Kildare - From Henry II in 1171 to Elizabeth II in 2011’ will take place at 8pm in Aras Bhride on Tuesday night.
The annual Bessie Byrne sponsored walk will leave Market Square at 7.30pm on Wednesday ngith and there will be a poetry and story night with local writer Mae Leonard at 7.30pm on Thursday night.
Friday night sees another free concert in Market Square - kicking off with the Kildare’s Got Talent show at 8pm, followed by Dave Morrissey and King Modo.
The final of the Best Buddies Talent Show will take place in Market Square from 6pm on Saturday evening, followed by the Dave Nolan Band and the Imelda May Tribute band. Sunday night’s open air concert will roundup proceedings with a trad night featuring Wire and Wood and The Four J’s.
At the launch, Festival committee chairman Ollie Kearns noted that all sponsorship for the event had been cut this year, and its only funding now comes from the sale and sponsorship of the official programme, which is available around Kildare town. He paid tribute to the dedicated committee of volunteers, including committee secretary Mary Kavanagh, treasurer Doreen Delaney, and PRO Sally Purcell, who have worked hard for the last eight months to ensure the festival will go ahead as usual this year.
Curragh Racecourse commercial manager Evan Arkwright said the local festival is a great addition to the Derby celebrations, as it focuses attention on the locality. He said he hopes to bring guests from sponsors Dubai Duty Free into Kildare town to experience the local celebrations during their visit to the Curragh for the 146th running of the Derby - which might help entice them to stay on board at least until its 150th year on 2015.
A concert was held at the National Stud last year as part of the festival, but CEO John Osborne said it had not been possible to organise this year as the Royal visit had “come along and hijacked all our time”. However, he said that another event may take place later in the year.
The official programme of events is available to purchase around Kildare town, and all proceeds go to the Derby Festival.