The 2019 Cloonacool Sheep Festival proved a huge success for our community. The opening event, a dance, on Saturday night saw John Hogan and his band entertain (and exercise) a great crowd who danced the night away to the country sounds of the man from the Faithful County! The decorated stage and Sheep Festival banners really set the mood for the dance and the weekend ahead.
Sunday dawned with a slightly overhung sky, but the clouds knew their place and despite a brilliant preceding week of sunshine, there was a promise of rain. The day however held firm. The local school children started the ball rolling with a super exhibition of their art and writing talents. ‘Sheep Framing in Cloonacool’ was the theme and some really excellent work was produced by all classes attending St Michael’s National School. Rosettes were presented to winners and later in the week, the committee went to the school to present art materials to all classed there.
The Community Centre hosted a collection of exhibits and demonstrations of all things connected to the sheep tradition. Wood spinning, knitting exhibits and sales as well as art displays were all on offer for the gathering crowds.
A sheep shearing demonstration followed the opening burst of music from Chris Stapleton on the main stage. The shearing featured the more modern and professional electric shearing method at work but also had a lovely cameo from local farmer, Michael Seerey, shearing with the old-fashioned hand shears.
A working sheep dog demonstration followed and stole the heart of the huge crowd now gathered. The green area overlooking the corner field in the village proved an excellent grand stand for the demo which held people spellbound for about 30 minutes. Many visitors and young children attending had not seen such a working combination in action before.
The main attraction of the whole weekend however proved to be the Sheep Show. Well organised and attracting farmers and their sheep from all over the province, the show was fascinating. Up to twelve various classes attracted huge entries with the judges astounded with both the quality of the sheep and the number of proud farmers taking part in the show. Prizes presented, the rain still firmly in its place, it was time to wrap up proceedings, but not before the ‘Pimp My Sheep’ award was presented to local girl, Micaela McCarrick and the top raffle prize of two breeding ewes was won by Pascal Greehan.
Chairman of the organising committee, Pat McCarrick thanked all involved; sponsors, local volunteers and those attending. It is fair to say that everybody left the village of Cloonacool that Sunday evening well pleased and well rewarded… just as the rain began to fall!
The Cloonacool Sheep Festival will be taking place again in 2020 with September 19th and 20th being the dates to put in your diary.
The Cloonacool Sheep Festival has sprung from a local community initiative where a group of interested local people set about maintaining and building community spirit, for which the region has been renowned, as a counter to rural decline. Traditions, skills and activities associated with rural sheep farming include wool, meat and sales of stock. Sheep dog trialling, sheep shearing and farm tasks are further skills to be included to inform and create attraction.
The tradition of sheep farming had defined livelihoods in the parish of Cloonacool for generations. This tradition was identified as a selling point for the region, something to crow about, a project to engender pride and keep the place in the map
Few other rural regions have such an initiative in place at present and so Cloonacool, as a rural parish, takes up a unique position in the calendar of festivals; displaying its traditions and charms to the wider world.
The origins and need for this festival have been identified by a local committee under the following headings:
Civic Pride – local people are working to keep life and business in their rural region which is under threat as a result of local job losses, Post Office closure and local shop closures. This project promises to engender pride and create empowerment.
Rural Decline – Our community needs to keep our region attractive for existing family life as well as making our region a place where outsiders might like to consider living because of its quality of life.
Education – local people, not directly associated with sheep farming, and many outsiders will benefit from increased knowledge of the rural sheep farming tradition and all its ancillary activities.
Attract Visitors – The parish of Cloonacool is a region of great natural beauty, a hidden gem. This event is designed to new visitors to the region and help to create return visits and making the parish an attractive living location.
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