fes­Ti­vaL fiT

Three fes­ti­vals ev­ery week for a year. Mark Gra­ham is thrilled by Tayto Park

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FUN & GAMES -

THERE IS NO es­cap­ing it now, silly sea­son has ar­rived. And along with it a host of por­ta­ble, pseudo-Vi­en­nese vil­lages that hawk ev­ery­thing from mas­sage ham­mers to gi­ant elec­tric socks that you can fit both your feet into for a healthy mix of warmth, im­mo­bil­ity and ridicu­lous­ness.

Christ­mas fes­ti­vals are a dif­fi­cult an­i­mal to tackle. The main thrust of th­ese things is to try and get you to go and spend your hard-earned but­ter vouch­ers on a whole ar­ray of shiny and sea­sonal gee-gaws. That’s not really in keep­ing with what the spirit of a fes­ti­val should be; at the very least you’d hope that this modus operandi would be so well hid­den by smoke and mir­rors that you wouldn't mind shelling out a few bob for the ex­pe­ri­ence. I think I may have found three Christ­mas car­ni­vals that dis­tract in a de­light­ful way while only gen­tly pick­ing your pocket.

I’ve al­ways con­sid­ered my­self a con­nois­seur of the crisp, hav­ing a so­phis­ti­cated palate that can dis­cern a pal­try corn snack from a proper fla­vor­some fried spud slice, wor­thy of in­clu­sion in a gourmet Easi-sin­gle sang-ich.

The ex­cite­ment I felt when fi­nally mak­ing the first ever trip to Tayto Park in Co Meath must be what it’s like for ICA Ladies head­ing off on an out­ing to Daniel’s mu­seum in Dun­gloe. The prospect of a free packet of crisps is for me akin to a cup of fresh tea poured by D O’D him­self for the ladies, ac­com­pa­nied by a Mikado from Margo.

It didn’t dis­ap­point. I was a happy man-child in a crisp fac­tory. Al­legedly the park is ac­tu­ally de­signed for chil­dren and sure enough, there are many things for them to swing from and jump off, but c’mere, this is the place where they make Tayto and you can walk though the fac­tory. Willy Wonka me b@llix!

The ex­cuse for the trip was the Craft of Christ­mas Mar­ket tak­ing place in the park ev­ery week­end up to C-Day, but it def­i­nitely wasn’t the only draw.

The mar­ket is pleas­ant and, laud­ably, features a range of lo­cal pro­duce, with some sched­uled cook­ery de­mos from some well­known chef types thrown in; a nice dis­trac­tion for the adults while the kids are bounc­ing on the bi­son. The high­light was def­i­nitely the free big bag of crisps I got when head­ing out the gap. Tayto at source yo! An ex­pe­ri­ence on a par with eat­ing spaghetti bolog­nese in Bologna or tep­penyaki in Tokyo.

Num num.

Win­ter­val won­der­land Bill­boards all around the coun­try are boldly pro­claim­ing “Water­ford Win­ter­val – Ire­land’s Christ­mas Fes­ti­val”. A lofty claim for a fes­ti­val in its first year, es­pe­cially as it hits a mar­ket where there are many other es­tab­lished con­tenders for the ti­tle. A gi­ant snow­globe in the cen­tre of the city is not just a place to get a man­tel­piece me­mento: one young fella de­cided to pro­pose amidst the fake snow and air pumps (not the only source of pres­sure I imag­ine). Glad to report she said yes.

That story kinda cap­tures the at­mos­phere around the town nicely; it would seem the fes­tive spirit is alive and well in the South-East. The ac­tion is spread through­out Water­ford City with stalls, fair­ground rides, films, 3-D build­ing pro­jec­tions, a toy mu­seum, ginger­bread mak­ing work­shops, ar­ti­san food mar­ket and all the shiny gee-gaws but­ter vouch­ers can buy. Most of the events are free, but train rides and pic­tures in snow­globes will cost ya. Ire­land’s Christ­mas Fes­ti­val? I haven’t seen a bet­ter one yet.

My favourite fes­tive mar­ket is the bumper edi­tion of Dublin Flea Mar­ket. Usu­ally based at Dublin Food Co-op, this week­end the bizarre bazaar will be up­ping sticks to set up stall in Smith­field with Block T. Ex­pect vin­tage cloth­ing, posters, hand­made jew­elry, mu­sic, fan­tas­tic falafels, chest­nuts roasted on open fires and a smat­ter­ing of DIY cul­ture. You’re more likely to pick up pre-loved and alternative gee-gaws in this gaff.

Safe trav­els, don’t die.

❙❙❙ ayearoffes­ti­valsinire­land.com

DUBLIN FLEA: ALL THE SHINY GEE-GAWS MONEY CAN BUY

TAYTO PARK: ELF YOUR­SELF

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