Straffan was on high alert on Thursday, July 14, on account of the arrival of judges for the international Entente Florale.
The Florale, a competition open to towns and villages across Europe, is organised by the European Association for Flowers and Landscape which aims to improve the quality of life of urban dwellers, mostly through landscape and horticulture. Entries are judged on the quality of their horticultural displays.
Straffan will not know the outcome of the visit until later this year when three of its citizens will travel to Brno in the Czech Republic to get the results.
They were overall very happy. “There were a number of things they raised questions about but we were very happy with the overall visit,” said Joe McBride, one of the organisers.
Last November, Straffan Tidy Town Association got a call from the Department of Environment informing it that it had been selected to represent Kildare and Ireland in the competition.
Another organiser, Rose Donovan, said she would have said yes immediately but the TTA had to run the invitation by Kildare County Council and others.
They accepted and since then a flurry of activity has been taking place in the village, particularly closer to the judging date.
Mr McBride paid tribute to Kildare County Council Director of Services, Joe Boland, and his team for their support.When they judges arrived on the Thursday morning, they got a warm welcome and the weather was beautiful.
A portfolio describing the village and route map were among the things prepared.
At 9.30am on the judging day, a flag raising ceremony took place at the Community Centre and the eight-person judging team arrived at 9.45am, to be greeted by the new Mayor of Kildare, Ivan Keatley. They had arrived from Tullamore where they had judged Ireland’s other 2016 Entente entry, in the large town category.
They were escorted in by Duncan the piper and school children in the area had prepared their environmental and Green Flag welcome. “There was a horticultural bias,” said Mr McBride. The World War 1 memorial at the cemetery, Lodge Park, the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland churches, the former RIC barrack building in the town and the Walled Gardens were among the stops.
The group also visited the K Club where they were hosted by manager, Michael Davern, and given tours of the house and grounds. The Civil Defence organisation provided lunch at the hall. Among other events, an outdoor chess game was organised at the village and a presentation was made. Long time chess fan, Jack Hennigan, who promoted the game locally, was present.
A press conference took place at 1.15pm and the four hour judging followed. Ms Donovan said they will find the winners of the competition in September 23 in Brno but they did get some feedback at 4pm.
She and her husband, Eddie and Joe McBride will travel to the Czech Republic - all at their own expense, she pointed out.
Photos: Tony Keane