New ideas and progressive thinking are the way forward for Ballymahon

New ideas and progressive thinking are the way forward for Ballymahon

Jessica Thompson

Reporter:

Jessica Thompson

Email:

jessica.thompson@longfordleader.ie

Center Parcs Longford Forest

Center Parcs Longford Forest is due to open next year!

Center Parcs won’t be the only attraction in Ballymahon next summer if the local community has anything to do with it.

Center Parcs won’t be the only attraction in Ballymahon next summer if the local community has anything to do with it.

While the resort will surely bring hoards of tourists to the local forest, it’ll give them little excuse to leave and partake in events in the nearby town. But, with hundreds of full and part-time jobs to be filled, the population of Ballymahon is about to get a whole lot bigger.

The Inny-side town is already a hub of activity with a range of events taking place throughout the year but, never one to pass up a good opportunity to have the craic, local business woman Jenny White is getting a team of local people together to set up a River Festival.

“We were thinking a weekend festival based around the water - the river, the canal and the greenway - as opposed to the olden day festivals of 20 years ago when it was based around drinking,” Jenny told the Longford Leader.

The idea started this year with the hugely successful return of the Ballymahon Raft Race, which saw 14 teams build their own raft and make their way down the river.

“It was great craic. One of the rafts sank the minute it was put into the river, but they dragged it along with them anyway - like a cross to bear,” Jenny laughed.

“But it was great craic - very successful.”

Naturally, the fact that Center Parcs Longford Forest will bring more people to the town and put Ballymahon on the map can only be a good thing for the town and its festivals.

These sentiments are shared by local man, Ronan O’Toole, who is one of the founders and the Festival Director of the Still Voices Short Film Festival which, earlier this month, brought people from all over the world to the south Longford town.

“I can only look at Center Parcs as being an excellent thing for the town,” said Ronan as he took a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the film festival.

“You can go back to when the crash was and the housing market fell through and all that. And a lot of areas would stagnate and not a lot would go on there. And that can happen to any town, you know? Be it economically or culturally.”

But something like Center Parcs will boost the economy of the town, which can only be a good thing, according to Ronan.

“But for us then, as a festival, it’s quite serendipitous that Center Parcs is coming because we’ve been building this for so long, year on year improving,” Ronan added.

“And with Center Parcs coming, you see infrastructure improve. You see roads improve. You see a market leader in their field coming to the town and bringing what market leaders bring - improvements on everything. Because they have to meet certain standards.

And, just as Center Parcs Longford Forest will improve the economy of the town, Ronan reckons Still Voices will bring a cultural resurgence to the area - and it’s certainly doing a good job so far.

“Ballymahon is totally ready for Center Parcs. And we (Still Voices) hope to grow along with them in the cultural realm.

“I think, for sure, the film festival is a new concept for Ballymahon and I suppose a giant complex like Center Parcs coming to town is a new thing as well. But that’s the way forward. It’s progression, right?

“And if we just all sit around and try and do what we used to do, we’ll stagnate and nothing will happen. So new ideas and progressive thinking are the way forward in both senses - economically and culturally.”

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