By: Maeve O’Hair
As the season turns, it was fitting that Loughmore held it’s first ever Harvest Festival. Presented in Jimmy and Bernie Hennessy’s field, it was organised to raise funds for the church renovation, as well as the Hospice. It was a lot more than that though. It brought us all together like a large family, with all it’s flaws, failings, notions and dysfunction. It transformed us for the few hours we were together. We delighted in each other’s company. Friends and neighbours, who we had only previously nodded to in cars while rushing off to other places, were now meeting us face to face. It gave us new energy, enthusiasm and joy. Our children could run around freely, knowing that they were in a safe place and loving every minute of what the festival had to offer them. Pony and trap rides to bucking broncos, sporting skills to bouncing castles. They could also spend their pocket money here. The bric a brac and book stalls to the ice-cream from Brennan’s pop-up shop, gave them great spending pleasure.
The ladies were catered for with bags, belts and scarves being sold by Dolores and Sinead Hennessy, a mother and daughter duo who had an awesome display of high quality ‘girls stuff’. I helped at the jewellery stall, where Ethel Mongey had painstakingly unravelled the various chains, necklaces, baubles and bangles that had been dropped in to her over the few weeks leading up to the festival. They were now hanging proudly on a purpose built stand, waiting to be sold and sold they were!
The queues at the Festival Cafe were enormous but the treats inside were well worth the wait. Cup cakes of every description festooned the counter. Head confectioner was Therese Cullen and she was flanked on either side by sister Leona and mother Maureen. They had great help of course by so many ladies, even to having a great lady on the till in the form of Kathleen Leahy. Turf and wood were auctioned off by the now seasoned sports broadcaster, Tom McGrath and sales were brisk.
A lady who would have put Grafton Street’s former ‘Diceman’ to shame, mesmerised adults and children alike, with her perfect stillness and mime artistry. I think she called herself Mrs Scarecrow and was spotted outside the various stalls, suddenly out of nowhere and no-one was quite sure if she was real or imaginary! Later, Mrs Scarecrow was revealed as Patricia Maher, when she was presented with her Queen of the Festival sash!
Master of Ceremonies was the inimitable Donal Leahy, who in his three piece suit and tails, commanded and directed proceedings. He interviewed the various stall holders and with microphone in hand, spoke to people in a non-invasive way and was informative and enthusiastic. There were life-size puppets in various poses throughout the field and these were made by the wonderful Mary Fogarty, nee Brennan. She was so busy selling ice-cream at her shop, that she hardly had time to see what was happening outside!
Wafts of sound from Neil Young could be heard form the music system, interspersed with lovely live music from Kathleen Nesbitt’s young group of traditional musicians. There was some fantastic dancing as well, as troupes of set dancers took to the platform. The Tug of War competitions were very popular and were ably overseen by Pat McCormack and family. There were also cross border and cross bar challenges for the hurling enthusiasts.
A Monster barbeque happened in the evening and monster it was! There must have been over 500 people queuing for food. Gary Longstaff and the Egan ladies from Killahara manned the barbies, while the vivacious and good-humoured Kathleen Hayden was rooted to the spot at the deep fat fryer. Even Fr. Corbett’s culinary skills had to come into play. The rest of us ladies eventually got a handle on the situation, under the watchful eye of Bridget O’Dea!
After the food, tables and chairs were carefully put away by Conor Stapleton who to my mind, is the heart-beat of this village. His energy and innate sense of duty and pride in where he lives, is something to be admired.
John O’Dwyer, of Lisheenataggart won King of the Festival for his spruce attire and quiet sophistication. It took him by surprise but he assured me that he would sport the green sash with pride whenever he was required to wear it!
The Festival committee under the chairmanship of Tom Cullen, should be proud of what they worked so hard to organise. It was a joyful day for so many people and in it’s simplicity, worked. A human harvest, of sorts.