Tralee to pull out all the stops for Rose festival

AN all-out effort is under way in Tralee to ensure the recession doesn’t dampen celebrations at the 50th annual rose festival in August.

Publicans and other business people in the Festival of Kerry Support Group are meeting next week to discuss the funding of the festival’s €100,000 street entertainment programme.

A much-hyped Bloom concert, which would have been a key fundraiser for the group, had to be cancelled on the June bank holiday because of poor ticket sales.

That has put added pressure on the group which is to hold a public meeting, at the Abbey Inn, Tralee, next Tuesday night.

Street entertainment has been an integral element of the Rose of Tralee Festival since its inception and the organisers want to ensure it continues at the golden anniversary of the event.

Group chairman Danny Leane, a leading Tralee publican, said they had been depending on the Bloom event to make up for cash shortfalls.

“We’re now asking all vintners, traders and any other interested people to come to the meeting on Tuesday night to see how they can get involved in, or support, the street entertainment programme,” he said.

The support group first became involved two years ago after the festival company decided it would no longer be financing large-scale public events, as it had done in the past.

An emergency meeting of publicans and other business elicited big support and collected €75,000 to fund street entertainment in 2007.

Last year, the group collected €80,000, but feels it could be under pressure this year because of the continuing slump in business and poor state of the economy.

If there is a serious shortfall in funding, the street programme may have to be confined to the opening weekend of the festival.

Meanwhile, the programme for the 2009 festival is being finalised, with the major events to be held in the festival dome.

One of the main attractions will be a concert, on Monday August 24, featuring Sharon Shannon, Damien Dempsey, the Saw Doctors, Shane MacGowan and Dessie O’Halloran.

On the opening Sunday, the dome will host a fashion show and a glitzy re-union party for former roses and escorts.

As usual, the black tie rose ball will be the social highlight, on Friday August 21.

The two-night rose selection show will be televised live by RTÉ on August 25-26, with Ray D’Arcy as MC once again.

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