RTE presenter Mary Kennedy was in Ardee on Friday night to officially open the 2017 AOIFA Celtic Way National Flower Festival – and thousands of people are expected to visit the town over the next two days to take in all that’s on offer across three venues.
After months of preparation – including an increasingly hectic final number of days – all the work is done, installations are set up and ready for exhibit. Ardee looks resplendent and the festival is in full swing.
Speaking at the official opening, special guest Mary Kennedy said, “I’m delighted to be here and thank you for the invitation you extended to me to attend this lovely occasion – the official launch of the flower festival.
“From the moment we came up the driveway, it was a feeling of welcome and celebration,” she said. “The place looks magnificent. I am humbled and awed by the creativity. I feel like a bit of an imposter! But I do love them, I love giving flowers, I love receiving flowers.
“Flowers are so uplifting and are such a lovely part of our lives,” Kennedy continued. “I take my hat off to people who can incorporate them – not into flower arrangements – but into floral art.”
The Nationwide host paid tribute to all aspects of the festival, even those outside of the floral art itself. There’s a craft fair and more at Ardee Parish Centre and an art painting exhibition at Ardee Library.
“Something I really love is the involvement of the students who have made flower posters which are dotted around the town. And particularly, the real sense of community you get from the fact that this is one venue – the Church of the Nativity – and then the other is St Marys Church of Ireland. That’s a lovely gesture, a cross community gesture, which is so lovely and so valuable.”
Apt, given it’s a flower festival, Mary Kennedy was presented with a bouquet of flowers before the end of the ceremony while centurion Norah O’Hare was also presented with a bouquet and Ardee Flower Club also presented president Rose Caffrey with a bouquet for her efforts. Finally, Ruth Kelly-Brady was thanked for her contribution on the night with a presentation (below).
“Rose absolutely adores her flowers and comes to our club religiously every month and nearly always wins something,” Candy Holten said. Rose turns 94 in August.
While Ardee Concert Band – led by Brendan Breslin (below) – were entertaining crowds outside, there was much to see inside the Church of the Nativity with stunning floral art installations and exhibits all around the church for people to peruse.
As expected, a big crowd were present at the opening of the Celtic Way National Flower Festival and they were treated to even more musical accompaniment during the ceremony itself. Ruth Kelly Brady led her children’s choir through three songs before she went solo for three songs of her own – all of which wowed the audience.
The children, including Alannah Cunningham who enjoyed a brief solo herself, sang Rising Generation, We Praise God and All Things Bright and Beautiful before Ruth herself ran through Queen of the May, All Kinds of Everything and a rendition of Take That’s Rule The World in Italian, entitled, Il Mundo E Nostro.
The performances blew all in attendance away – quite a way to open the festival. Accompanied by Paddy Neary, Ruth and her 27-strong choir of children aged between five and 12 can all be very proud.
Among those who were in Ardee for the official opening of the festival were TD Declan Breathnach and new cathaoirleach of the Ardee Municipal District Liam Reilly.
The festival is open between 11am and 6pm today (Saturday) and again on Sunday (1pm-6pm). Both the Church of the Nativity and the St Marys Church of Ireland will be hosting floral art exhibits, whilst Ardee Parish Centre will be hosting a craft fair with plant sales, trade stands and floral sundries. Admission to the festival is €10.
A floral art exhibition also remains open over the weekend in Ardee library, showcasing the works of seven artists – including local artist Padraig Lynch.
Mary Kennedy will be sticking around all day on Saturday too, with RTE’s Nationwide producing a segment on the festival and Ardee itself for broadcast on a date yet to be determined.
Proceeds from this year’s festival will go towards the Irish Association for Cancer Research. Speaking at the official opening on Friday, president Amanda McCann – for whom the festival was a first official engagement – explained what the association does and she also expressed her delight at the support from the AOIFA Festival.
“We are so enormously grateful for the amazing funding that you are doing,” she said. “That you decided to support the Irish Association for Cancer Research is facilitating the infrastructure around really unifying the cancer research in this country.”
“Your work in supporting this is absolutely instrumental.”