This year 2017 we celebrate our 10th birthday as a festival! Roscommon Lamb Festival is now well established as part of the annual calendar and it is thanks to the generosity of the voluntary committee members who have put in so much energy, time and talent into the running of the festival that it has survived and succeeded to the extent that is now evident. Thanks also to our funders and sponsors, Roscommon Leader Partnership, Local Enterprise Office, Roscommon County Council, Fáilte Ireland and the many businesses and individuals who have believed in our vision and have backed it financially.
As we celebrate our 10th anniversary we remember two of our committee members who have sadly passed from this life. I refer to Oliver Burke who died in 2014 and to our beloved "Toko", Geraldo Marques who died last autumn. Both of these men were sons of the soil. Oliver in his capacity as chief agricultural officer with Teagasc had a great regard for the farmers of Roscommon and he enjoyed helping us to celebrate our sheep farming heritage. Toko was really a cultural ambassador for the Gaucho traditions of his native Brazil and he loved to share his many talents ranging from barbequeing lamb in the style of Rio Grande do Sul, to his leather work, his horsemanship and his love of poetry. Oliver will be commemorated with the award of his memorial trophy at the special sheep sale at our opening ceremony at Roscommon Mart. Toko will be remembered at a tribute stand at our street party on Sat 29th April. We also remember Paddy Coffey of Lecarrow who was a very generous sponsor of the festival.
Our programme this year has an exhibition by emerging artists and designers from Co Roscommon. We are delighted to give some of these very talented people an opportunity to showcase their work in the county town. Special thanks to Mr Eugene Cummins CEO of Roscommon Co. Co. and to his staff for facilitating this exhibition and also the launch of the festival on 24th March. Thanks also to Úna Burke who will open the exhibition. Úna is from Knockvicar near Boyle and is now a world famous designer based in London.
Another new event celebrates "The Limestone Heritage of Co Roscommon". This conference starts with a lecture in the Co Library given by Dr John Feehan and this will be followed by field trips to a number of sites of interest. We have also commissioned a life sized sculpture of a ewe and lamb, carved from Lecarrow limestone by local craftsman Mark Feeley. This will be erected in Roscommon Town as a reminder of the importance of sheep farming to our county.
On Saturday evening a huge party in the Square will involve street entertainers, puppet shows, food stands and world class music from the King St. Bluegrass Band from Virginia USA plus some local musicians. The party will include a tribute to Toko and will feature a BBQ, the proceeds of which will go to the Mayo, Roscommon Hospice. An upcycled timber pallet display and competition will take place at the same time with cash prizes for the winners.
Our full programme retains most of our regular events and is available on our brochure and also on our website, www.roscommonlambfestival.com. I welcome everybody to Roscommon Lamb Festival 2017 and hope that people of all ages have an enjoyable and interesting time.