Feeling Festive in the Christmas (F)air…

Louise Whelan

If you can imagine Christmas spirit as a wonderland, well you’d be spot on because that is exactly what the Christmas Fair in Irishtown Stadium was designed to look like, with an amazing, classic embodiment of an enchanting and whimsical portrayal of Santa’s grotto and workshop. The idea for this magical wonderland was created by the residents of the communities of Ringsend, Irishtown and Pearse Street who came together to brainstorm, and through those discussions the project was born. Rachel Rooney, who is the Network Coordinator in the Spellman Centre, set up an events management team with the residents and through that, managed to get a sponsorship from Google, and Dublin City Council allowed the venue free of charge. And once that was in place, it was all candy canes go. Rachel is all about empowering the community and collaborating with other groups in the locality so that they all work together towards one common goal, to target those who lost their jobs during the Covid crisis and upskill to create new employment opportunities. 
The tickets for this festival sold out in 20 minutes and it’s no surprise. All the proceeds go to a charity called Autism Equality Dublin Bay which is a support group for parents advocating for children on the autistic spectrum in Dublin 4 and Dublin 2. This Santa’s wonderland has also been designed to include a sensory hour where the children can roam freely with their parents, taking their time to soak up the atmosphere in a peaceful and relaxed setting while also catching a glimpse of a certain jolly man in red, a Snow Queen and a Grinch. Eek! 
While Donnybrook may have the Late Late Toy Show, the Irishtown Stadium easily stole the show with this incredible transformation. Local volunteers from the various forum groups (60 in total) turned the car park into this magical fairyland. So much time, effort and energy has gone into this spectacular scene, and the results speak for themselves. 
Despite the Baltic temperatures, and a snow machine blowing a blizzard, the atmosphere was electric with the buzz and excitement in the air. Pierce Rooney and the gang from RMS were belting out the Christmas hits which only added to the cheery sounds of the excited children as they queued up to meet Santa and his helper elves, guided by the head elf who made sure everything was ship shape in Santa’s workshop. Teamwork played a major part at this fair and everyone knew their role which fused the community spirit into one big ball of festive joy. Even the live reindeer were on their best behaviour posing for photographs with the eagerly awaited children and adults! 
The eight market stalls shared between the local communities of Ringsend and Pearse Street went down a treat, selling their wonderful Christmasey wares which included candle melts, Christmas cakes, cookies and cupcakes, Christmas cards, beautiful handmade personalised gifts, upcycled plates and healing crystals. A lot of these sellers were upskilling their craft or changing their former careers to new adventures. There was something for everyone and to suit all tastes. Special donations were made to Temple Street hospital from buying an angel from the local ladies which people were more than happy to do. 
Members of the Ringsend and Irishtown Tidy Towns, along with some young people, gave a helping hand and kept everybody warm and cosy with delicious hot chocolate, mulled wine and mince pies which were all free. Mary O Neill Byrne, an avid tidytowner said it was great to see such a good turn out for the first community fair with lots on offer and it was lovely to see people dressed up and the kids having a great time. And the entertainment definitely delivered: there was Jack Frost weaving his wintry tricks, juggling his icicle rings and spinning balls on his fingertips; Waffles the magic Santa spinning her plates and doing lots of rope antics; while Danspire kept the kids energised with their tik-tok festive dances. Not forgetting the selfies with the Grinch and the Polar bear who were only too happy to pose for a photo. 
As the daylight faded, the market was illuminated by colourful fairy lights and spotlights adorned the fair which gave it a warm welcoming feeling. Even the Snow Queen couldn’t help but crack a smile through her dazzling glimmer. If you were lucky enough to catch a ride on the Christmas train, you were in for a treat, all thanks to Ross McKeon from Insignia Nights. Teresa Weafer Grennell who is the Community Engagement Manager for Google (who sponsored the event, supported by Dublin City Council), said it meant people could come together in the open air having the most fantastic opportunity to celebrate, smile and get to know each other in a different way, and that Google is so delighted to be part of this fantastic day. She also gave credit to the organisers for putting together a spectacular event, adding that they are the real unsung heroes here (see Google News, centre pages for more). Sinn Fein TD Chris Andrews also gave praise to the Ringsend Community Services Forum (RCSF) for putting on a fantastic event for everybody, and was delighted everything ran so smoothly despite the wintry weather.
Speaking to Rachel Rooney, she said by the time this is finished two and a half thousand people would have come through the fair which is absolutely amazing. But what’s also amazing is the team effort from all the residents groups and all the forum groups that have been involved at some point. “It’s basically the whole community coming together in a joint collaboration which is what community spirit is all about and there was plenty of that sprinkled down here.”
Plenty of that and also a whole lot of magic! 

Wishing all our readers a peaceful and safe Christmas and a wonderful New Year.