Over 70 exhibitors took part in the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town expo in Ardee on Saturday afternoon – an event that organisers hoped ‘shone a light’ on the thriving business and enterprise community in the town.
Rugby pundit Brent Pope was the special guest on the day but the large crowd who came out to enjoy the day were also treated to fantastic performances from the Ardee Concert Junior Band, the pupils from the Carol Leavy School of Dance and a stunning show of vocal talent from local tenor James McCreanor.
Taking place in the former church on John Street – kindly donated for the day by owners Brian McNally and Pauline Breslin – so many visitors to the event remarked on the grandiose setting for the expo, one that offered a rare glimpse of the building that has been closed to the public since the closure of Wogan’s Interiors in 2012.
Aidan Magennis, an All-Ireland Football Championship winner from 1957, was the man tasked with cutting the ribbon to officially open the event – but not before he made an impassioned speech to the assembled crowd. He said, “This town of ours down through the years has time after time lost out and at the present time we are promised more things by many people but very few are delivered.
“In that situation, I say, the enterprise in Ardee is something we should go forward with. St Brigid’s Hospital in Ardee is gone. It’s a pity. Ardee get’s nothing and it’s time we did something about it.”
As well as a host of diverse local businesses – such as Comfort Keepers, Titta’s Takeaway, Deeside Country Store, Ardee Coach Trim, Kong Digital and IFM – showcasing their wares, there was room for community initiatives like DeeHub and local sports clubs were well represented too. Ardee Badminton Club, Ardee Rugby Club and Ardee & District Athletic Club were among those with stalls to show off their sizeable trophy and medal hauls.
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James McCreanor, son of Micky, had the audience enthralled as he belted out a couple of tunes early on and even bigger crowds assembled for the youngsters of the Ardee Concert Band and 25 young children from Carol Leavy’s School of Dance .
TD’s Declan Breathnach, Peter Fitzpatrick and Fergus O’Dowd all popped by throughout the day for a look around but it was special guest Pope who was the most popular amongst selfie seekers. He took to the stage to make a presentation to Ardee Rugby Club and also had a brief chat with chair of the Ardee Traders & Business Association Hughie O’Neill.
Speaking to ThisIsArdee.ie, O’Neill said, “It’s fantastic to see the turn out. It’s brilliant. It’s all happening in Ardee today and it’s encouraging when you do see that everyone is putting in the effort to put a stand in,” he said. “There’s great scope. Truth be known, a lot of people might not even realise businesses are here, not so obvious ones. It’s a great showcase.
“Yesterday, we took a walk around the town and we went into three different shops to wish them well in their new venture. It’s a long road, there’s a long way to go but baby steps.”
Paul Farrell of Farrell Furniture also took the mic to discuss business matters before the event wrapped up with attentions turning to the arrival of the An Post Ras cyclists entering the tow soon after. Bank of Ireland Ardee branch manager David Dowling spoke to ThisIsArdee.ie and said the day was a big success.
“We’re absolutely delighted,” he said. “It’s a great crowd. We thought the weather would keep them away but ironically it’s kept them in. It’s been a really successful day so far. We’ve had 70 or 80 exhibits. We’re had the Ardee Junior Band, the Carol Leavy School of Dancing, Brent is here too and Paul Farrell.
“Bank of Ireland are trying to immerse themselves in the community, get everyone involved, shine a spotlight on this event and then Ardee do what it does best – put it’s best foot forward,” he continued. Dowling all paid to the traders who took part and helped organise the event and also to Brian McNally for providing use of the old church.
Before things finished up, Revolve (Irish Street) won a prize for best display stand at the event, narrowly beating off competition from Wee County Trophies and Deeside Country Store.