Geesala Festival in Co. Mayo

The first Geesala festival was held in 1993 and was organised by a group who had originally got together to raise money in order to refurbish the community centre and indeed, the festival was the main event in that fundraising effort. That first festival was mainly centred around night-time events, like dances and discos, with sports being the main day time events.

However, on listening to reaction from the people attending the events, the committee decided to change the whole programme for the following year and to have an 'Emigrant Renunion'. Representatives were brought in from each of the seven surrounding villages and the mammoth task began of sending letters to emigrants from all of those villages, wherever they were, informing them of the dates and the programme of events for the forthcoming festival.

The response was fantastic, and the committee got so carried away that the first festival was actually run over a fortnight, instead of a week!

The main events of the festival are horseracing on the beach at Doolough, a village three miles by road from Geesala. Here is a stretch of beach three miles long and is deemed to be the 'best turf' in the country by the Horseracing Association of Ireland. Since the first festival, greyhound racing on that same beach has been added to the programme and the excitement around that is built up all year with people bringing dogs from England and the North of Ireland, not to mention all over Ireland and the amount of local dogs taking part has increased every year.

There is a day of showjumping, with the jumps set up by the Showjumping Association of Ireland and the horses who jump here carry the points with them either to Mill Street in Cork or to the R.D.S depending on the dates.There is also a showing for horses and ponies on the day and a dog show. Next year there is a horticultural showing to be added to that day.

A new addition last year was currach racing and this proved to be such a popular event that there are plans for elaborating on that for this year.

There are the usual sporting events, football - gaelic and soccer, sheaf throwing, súgan making, potato picking, wellie throwing and whacky sports for the kids, which mainly involves them and the helpers getting wet and dirty!!

The hotel and the local pubs take care of the nightime entertainment and there are usually a couple of discos for the younger groups. These are just some of the main events, every year there will be some new additions to the programme to keep it as entertaining as possible, both for the participants and the organisers.

The organisers hope that it will get bigger and better.

Article by Mary Togher