Mid summer is nigh and the sound of fiddle and flute in the balmy evening air means the County Fleadh is around the corner, – June 19th to 23rd, returning to Milltown for the second year in a row.  Supporters, sponsors and friends of Comhaltas gathered to launch the event on May 31st.

MC Owen O’Shea welcomed guests, including Cathaoirleach of Kerry County Council Norma Foley, who acknowledged the support of main sponsors Chapter 23 Kerry and West Limerick Credit Unions and all the local businesses. Kerry County Council’s financial support is vital to the event and Norma explained how the council’s vision is encapsulated in the Fleadh- with the community, County Council, businesses and volunteers working together to support heritage and culture. Norma quoted Elizabeth Andrews, who said “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” The Fleadh depends on countless hours of volunteerism and Norma thanked the local Comhaltas branch for their work. Norma also complemented Milltown as the ideal centre for this county-wide event, with top class facilities in the new Presentation Secondary School, the new Community Centre and the town square, a perfect civic space to host public events, including the free concerts and ceilidh during the Fleadh.

Owen then introduced Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin who also acknowledged the volunteerism that keeps so much of Kerry life going and the Fleadh is one example, both in the work of the local committee and the county board. He added that the work of Comhaltas also owes a lot to past members, and that we are “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Brendan noted how the Street Entertainment Competition at this year’s Fleadh is named after Denis Courtney, a local community leader and former county chairman of Comhaltas who always encouraged community involvement, especially with young people.

Brendan also acknowledged that Comhaltas has a huge positive economic impact. The richness of our music and culture offers a unique experience to visitors from abroad and is the cornerstone of our tourism industry.

John Long, chairman of Chapter 23 Credit Unions, also praised the work of the volunteers and said Chapter 23 and the local branch were proud to support such a wonderful programme, especially sponsoring the Denis Courtney Street Entertainment competition. Two key principles of the Credit Union are social responsibility and community support, and these fit perfectly with the work of Comhaltas.

Milltown Fleadh committee chairman Vincent Prendergast thanked the county board for their support. He thanked county treasurer Maurice Guilfoyle, for his work and also encouraged us to support the local businesses who have supported the County Fleadh in various ways. He thanked sponsors Tricel, Dan Tim O’Sullivan, Astellas, Bank of Ireland, the staff of Nagle Rice Community centre and Presentation Secondary School, and all local sponsors. Music on the night was provided by Tom O’Connor and Kieran Kelliher and Bleachfield Bistro boss Mike O’Sullivan’s barbeque catered for all tastes, with delicious food and fine wine.

The County Fleadh takes place in Milltown from June 19th to 23nd, and as well as the competitions, offers a huge range of free street entertainment. Kila, the cutting edge trad. group, headline the festival, playing on the Gig Rig in the square on Saturday night, June 22nd. Two open–air ceilidh, Friday night with the Shandrum Ceilí Band and Sunday afternoon with Ui Bhriain, will have the square hopping while “Time to Party” will have children’s events all through Sunday afternoon. Young musicians are invited to take part in the Denis Courtney Street Entertainment Competition, with €500 in prizes from the local Milltown and Rathmore Credit Union. The annual Singing Club takes place on Thursday, June 20th in Larkins’ Bar. Music sessions will be happening over the weekend in all local bars and Spin City funfair will be in town all week. With something for everyone, it promises to be a great week in Milltown-hope to see you there!