For the first time in more than 1,000 years a foreign invader made his way onto our shores via longboat yesterday — but, unlike the Vikings, this one was welcomed with cheers and waves by the natives.
Santa Claus made the journey up the river Suir yesterday via a 40-foot Viking longboat before officially opening the Winterval Festival in Waterford.
Hundreds of little ones and not-so-little ones lined the city quays throughout mid-afternoon and hailed the bearded one as he arrived, waving merrily, on his wooden craft.
After setting sail from the North Pole earlier in the week, Santa was assisted by a crew of Waterford Vikings who rowed the longboat to the Marina at the Plaza in the city centre before being met with some Winterval elves and being brought to the Grotto at the Medieval Museum which will be his home for the duration of the festive festival.
The longboat used by old St Nick to get to Waterford was built in the city over a period of 18 months and, weighing over one tonne, is based on an 11th century Viking ship found in Denmark. Timbers from similar ships were found in Waterford during excavations in the city between 1986 and 1992.
The Winterval festival takes place from Nov 30 to Dec 23 and offers a trail of over 20 festive events to locals and visitors, with 13 events having free admission.
It’s the first of its kind in Ireland and, according to chairman Barry Monaghan, is set to become an annual event. “We’re not here just for one year,” he said, pointing out that dozens of people have been involved in the organisation of Winterval since its inception in September of last year. “It has really grabbed people’s imagination because they saw that, as time went on, they could create the best festival in Ireland.
The Viking Triangle is the focus of the festival and all of the attractions are within a short walk of each other.
Some of the highlights festival-goers can enjoy at Winterval are a 3D lightshow, a helter-skelter, a snow-globe, the toy museum, animal farm, Viking Christmas, Polish Christmas, storytelling at Reginald’s Tower and craft workshops. There’s also a Santa train around the city centre.
For all the children wishing to get their letters off to Santa the giant Winterval post box is situated at John Robert’s Square and the post will be collected every Saturday at 4pm from December 1 by Santa’s Little Helpers from the Waterford Academy of Dramatic Arts.
* See www.winterval.ie for a full list of events.
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