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As Ballyshannon this year prepared to host the 40th anniversary of Ireland's longest running folk and traditional music festival, the Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival, messages of goodwill flooded into the organisers from some of the biggest names in the business.
In a recorded link that was relayed to guests attending the festival launch in June in the Abbey Arts Centre, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan recalled with fondness the happy times she and the band spent at the festival, playing for audiences at night and "spending a fair bit of time between Ferguson's and McIntyre's too," she joked, recalling happy days in the Erne town.
Her sentiments were echoed by a host of performers interviewed on the night live and others who spoke via prerecorded link or telephone. Time and again contributors praised the current and previous committees for their dedication over the years to ensuring the festival had outlived so many other folk festivals that had come on the scene but were now long gone.
This year's festival featured a host of star acts, including Mundy, Paddy Casey and Altan, to name but a few.
The festival returned this year to its spiritual home, the marquee in the Market Yard, as part of expansive plans to mark this special anniversary.
Speaking at the launch festival committee member John Meehan who acted as MC, said the decision to return to the marquee was a "calculated risk" they were taking as part of their 40th celebrations, but he said that ticket sales already would suggest the risk was well founded and one worth taking.
Chairman of the festival, Eunan Doyle, joked that while they had substantial bookings from Australia, various European countries and the USA, "as usual Paddy was leaving it late" and he appealed to locals and people from across Ireland to support them and he looked forward to seeing plenty of bookings from 'home'.
"This is a special year, we feel we have risen to the challenge of hosting and marking our 40th anniversary. The feedback has been very positive locally and through social media," he said.
He thanked their sponsors and said they were looking forward to a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend in Ballyshannon.
Other speakers on the night of the launch were the newly elected cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr. Gerry McMonagle, who said he had fond if slightly vague memories of attending what he believes was the very first festival in 1978, camping in what was then the Fair Green (now Allingham Park). Harry Doherty, speaking on behalf of sponsor ESB, said the company was delighted to be associated with the event.
This year's Ballyshannon Folk & Traditional Festival ran from August 3rd to 6th, 2017.
Caption information for photo, above: Altan's Mairead Ni Mhaoraigh gives a few tunes at the opening of Barry Britton's Art Exhibition and the opening of the 40th Ballyshannon Folk Festival in the Abbey Arts Centre with festival chairman Eunan Doyle in background. Photo Thomas Gallagher.