An Irish town has launched a massive community campaign to ensure the red carpet is rolled out for a Norwegian family who found their message-on-a-balloon 2,500km away.
Intensive efforts were under way in West Cork last night to secure flights to Ireland for Linda Taule, and her family of five, from Nausdal in western Norway, so they enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime holiday in Dunmanway, the birthplace of Sam Maguire, and collect a host of prizes, later this summer.
The remarkable story of how a little balloon with a big list of prizes made it all the way from Dunmanway to the mountains of western Norway was the talk of the town yesterday.
Former carpenter turned potter, Finn Kearney, who runs The Hummingbird craft and gift shop in the town, said locals will move heaven and earth to get the Taule family to West Cork.
“A town is only about bricks, mortar and fresh air. It’s the people that make a town at the end of the day, and there’s some great people in this town and we’ll be focusing on making this happen,” he said.
The balloon message, the brainchild of Dunmanway Chamber of Commerce, was released from alongside the town’s live crib at the Green on December 19 last, with a note attached listing a set of prizes sponsored by local businesses.
The lucky finder was in line to win a stay for two in Galvin’s on the Green B&B, a box of chocolates from Deirdre Kelly, a gift hamper from For Goodness Sake health shop, a bottle of wine from Connollys shoe shop, lunch for two in Marnies Restaurant, and a wash, cut and shave, and a bottle of champagne, from Catherine Crowley’s Boyz to Men barbers. Ms Crowley’s phone number was at the bottom.
Chamber member Deirdre Kelly said they would have been happy if the balloons made it as far as Skibbereen.
“We’ve been working hard over the years to promote Dunmanway,” she said.
“Because it’s inland, and we’re competing against the coastal towns, we’ve always had to work that extra bit hard, and this was one of those things we thought we’d try. And to be honest, I had forgotten about them.”
But then came the phone call that would change everything.
Catherine answered the phone while cutting hair in her salon last Wednesday to hear a woman claim she’d found their balloon note while hiking with her son — in Norway — 2,500km away.
Deirdre said it’s remarkable the balloons made it so far.
“It’s unprecedented, we would never have expected that at all. But this is like a bright light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Linda Taule told them it was like “finding treasure”.
She checked flight prices to Cork for her, her husband, Vinggo, and their children, Magnus, seven, Nora, five, and Pernilla, nine.
“But they were a bit above our budget for this year,” she said.
The chamber members have been inundated with offers of sponsorship, dinners, prizes, vouchers and help to ensure the family gets to Ireland, and are treated royally when they get here.
Valerie Hurley, of Hurley and White Builders, have pledged €100.
Mary Galvin, who had originally offered two nights bed and breakfast in Galvin’s on the Green, said she will look after the family for as long as they’re in West Cork; Helen O’Reilly, from the For Goodness Sake health shop, is arranging a bigger hamper; and Finn Kearney said he will arrange a few special pottery pieces for them.
James Duggan, of Funmanway adventure centre, which is home to Ireland’s only corkscrew zorbing course, has also offered the family a full day of adrenaline-filled activity at his 21-acre site.
“We’ll put them in a hydro-zorb, fill it with 70 litres of water, and send them rolling a quarter of a mile downhill. We’ll treat them to harness zorbing, strapping two of them into our harness zorb, and send them off down the hill, and then we’ll give them a go at mountain boarding on our all-weather astro-turf track,” he said.
Drimoleague Pod Park has offered accommodation, Waterfall Alpaca Farms has also offered free guided walks, and the family is in line for a session of stand-up paddle boarding at the Lagoon Adventure centre in Rosscarbery.
Third generation Dunmanway retailer, Josephine McSweeney, whose grandfather founded Connolly’s Shoe Shop in 1892, and who took over the store from her father after she retired from teaching, said it’s a great opportunity for the town. “I’m very proud of keeping that name over the door of our shop, and of keeping that shoe shop open in this town, because it’s an integral part of the town,” she said.
“Every business that we can keep open in the Square is good for our town. Every person passing through, that can stop and shop, is a bonus for us.”
It is hoped that Linda and her family can time their visit to coincide with the town’s Ballabuidhe Festival in about six weeks.
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