Summer shutdown as Donegal's biggest festivals - including Sea Sessions - are called off

The move while necessary is a major blow to the county

Sea Sessions among the events that will not go ahead due to restrictions on large gatherings

Sea Sessions among the events that will not go ahead due to restrictions on large gatherings

Festivals that are the lifeblood of towns and villages across Donegal are being cancelled as a result of the latest Covid-19 restrictions. 

Many major summer events had been adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach as the crisis unfolded, holding on to a sliver of hope that events might still go ahead. But this week’s government announcement that gatherings of more than 5,000 people cannot take place before August 31 had left organisers with no option but to cancel.

Many communities rely on the tourism income that goes with these events. While people understand that the decision is necessary, it is still a big blow.

Bundoran’s Sea Sessions is one of the biggest events in Donegal, kick-starting the summer and attracting thousands of visitors with its unique blend of music, surf and beach party atmosphere.

Bundoran Tourism Officer Shane Smyth said: “We had been holding out as long as possible in the hope that the beach party of the year would get a green light. But we have now received official word from the government that all festivals and concerts over a capacity of 5,000 will have to be shelved. 

“While we understand many people will be gutted by the news, we ask you to bear in mind the very real and far more serious consequences Covid-19 is taking on families across the country.

“But don’t worry, when the clouds lift and the storm steels we will be back like a new swell on the horizon with our unique mix of surfing, music and partying in summer 2021.”

Anyone who bought Sea Sessions tickets will be contacted in the coming weeks by Ticketmaster via email.

With regard to a number of smaller events due to take place in Bundoran this summer, Mr Smyth said: “We are keeping an open mind as we await further government decisions. The health and safety of patrons is always number one. We will abide by whatever guidelines and restrictions are in place at this difficult time.”

It has also been announced that one of the biggest food festivals in the country - A Taste of Donegal - will not go ahead. 

Organisers said it was a tough decision but added: “We will off course be back in 2021 bigger and better.

“When the restrictions are all lifted, let’s all discover, dine and delight in Donegal Town, Ireland’s Foodiest Town.  

“We look forward to welcoming you all back to celebrate A Taste of Donegal 2021.”

Read also: Cancellation of major Donegal food festival

The Mary From Dungloe Festival is another event that is vital to the local economy. A formal announcement is expected in the coming days.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

As Donegal faces into a quiet summer with a lot of fear about the economic consequences, there is one bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Glenties Harvest Fair is not due to take place until mid-September which for now at least, does not come under the restrictions.

Brendan O’Donnell from the organising committee said: “We are keeping an open mind at the moment. Of course we will abide by government guidelines. If we have to call it off, so be it. But the Harvest Fair has even survived the wars. It would be the first time in 100 years that it would not be held.

“Harvest Fair Day is always on September 12 and that is falling on a Saturday this year, so it would have been a very big day. If it does go ahead, it won’t be quite the same as originally planned but we would hope it would still be a very busy few days for the town. We have to hold on to some glimmer of hope. This keeps a lot of businesses going through the winter.”

If the Harvest Fair does go ahead it is sure to be an even bigger celebration than usual. People from all over Donegal will be keen to get out and enjoy life in the much-missed company of family and friends. 

Who knows, when the restrictions are finally fully lifted all roads might well lead to Glenties.

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