THERE may be no such thing as a free lunch but this was as close as it gets.
A small group of people came to Punchestown Racecourse with a lunch invitation and left with cheque.
Management at the racecourse staged the event on Wednesday, October 12, to hand out cheques worth a total of E70,000 to charities and community groups. The money came from MCD, the promoter who stages the annual Oxegen event at the racecourse venue, as a gesture of gratitude to the local community.
If the event had another purpose it was an opportunity for Dick O’Sullivan, general manager, to stress the need for the racecourse to work with the local community both in terms of ensuring that the concert runs smoothly and to encourage people to go racing. (The cost of admission to racing on any day at Punchestown is E10, except the festival meeting).
Mr. O’Sullivan said the task of handing the cheques to 25 orgnaisations is among the more enjoyable tasks he has in the job – which he has had for nine years.
He pointed out that over the past three years a total of E400,000 has been handed out to local groups. Naas GAA Club is the biggest beneficiary, getting cash for providing stewards along the approach roads to the concert venue. Individual stewards receive free concert tickets as do residents living close to Punchestown. The Ballymore and Eadestown GAA clubs also provide stewards and Mr. O’Sullivan said he was glad to see Eadestown involved.
“Punchestown is of no value if we don’t have the support and the foundation of the community,” Mr. O’Sullivan said, adding that anybody with any concerns about the concert should approach the racecourse management.
He said efforts had been made to strengthen ties and links with between the racecourse and management over the past nine years because he felt then that Punchestown had lost the support of some of the community.
Naas Musical Society member Dave Smyth said the groups were appreciative of the cash and added that Punchestown had worked hard to establish itself as one of the finest venues of its kind in Europe.
He also pointed out it is available for the community, including walkers who come on a daily basis.
North Kildare Chamber CEO Allan Shine said the Oxegen festival is a “much needed boost to the local economy, especially the hospitality sector”.
The biggest cheque went to the St. Vincent de Paul in Naas(E15,000) followed by Nas na Ri Community Centre and Naas Care of the Aged (E5,000 each); Tiglin Rehabilitation, Jack and Jill and Barrettstown (E4,000 each). Ballymore Senior Citizens/GAA got E3,000 while E2,500 went to the ISPCC, Injured Jockeys Fund, Spina Bifida Kildare, Naas Musical Society, Naas Tidy Towns, Homeless Naas and the Irish Welfare Trust.
E2,000 went to Eadestown Community Games, the Niall Mellon Foundation and Naas Lions Club with E1,000 each going to Ballymore Tidy Towns, Kilteel/Eadestown Comhaltas, Kildare Civil Defence, Rathmore Primary School Project and Little Way Cancer Support.
Ballymore Boxing Club, Kildare Pony Club and Ballymore Badminton Club each received E500.