A wave of excitement is about to break over Galway as the city prepares to host SeaFest, Ireland's major national maritime festival, docking in the city over the action-packed weekend of Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 July 2016.
Following a successful inaugural event in Cork last year, SeaFest is now firmly established as an annual celebration of all things nautical, honouring Ireland's multi-faceted relationship with the sea.
Launching the packed programme for Galway, Mr. Michael Creed TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said "SeaFest is all about raising our awareness of the value and opportunities provided by the sea, giving locals and visitors alike fresh opportunities to engage in sea-themed events and activities.
"We're making a splash with a programme of events which will include an array of seafaring family fun, on the water activities plus a seafood fair packed with great natural produce and cookery demonstrations by celebrity chefs. We'll be hosting tours of Ocean-going vessels; offering new opportunities to get afloat on leisure craft and boats, showcasing exhibits on marine life and creatures of the deep and providing all manner of festival fun and entertainment for all the family.
"Importantly, we're proud to be playing our part in the wider 'Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth' initiative, providing opportunities for people of every age and interest to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of the ocean, building on how we can each act to protect our abundant maritime resources."
That SeaFest programme will run from 9am to 6pm daily with Galway Harbour providing a focal point of activity.
All things fishy will be celebrated at the festival's BIM/Bord Bia Sea Food Extravangza, located in a Big Top marquee at The Docks. Here celebrity chefs Martin Shanahan and Rory O'Connell will be rolling out recipes and cookery demos to tempt seafood lovers' tastebuds, while Michael O'Meara from Oscar's Bistro in Galway and the author of the top-selling 'Sea Gastronomy' (nominated for Best Cookbook in the World) will also share his knowledge and favourite dishes. BIM's 2015 Young Fishmonger Of The Year, Gerard Collier from The Fisherman's Catch, Clogherhead, will take the mystery out of preparing fish and shellfish at home. Visitors will also get to taste the best of Irish seafood from some of Ireland's best seafood producers.
The inner pier at Galway Harbour is where you will find ship tours, free film screenings*, and 'Beneath Our Wild Atlantic' – an exciting, new, interactive, family-friendly exhibition from the Marine Institute.
Linking the Big Top and Inner Harbour will be a linear quayside Festival Village, a mini market of crafts and culinary temptation, all served up with nautical style and relaxed entertainment ... complemented with regular personal appearances by the RNLI's Stormy Stan character.
Intrepid SeaFesters will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with a range of vessels, invited to hop on board for show-and-tell tours. The Marine Institute's Research Vessels, the Celtic Explorer and the Celtic Voyager, will be conducting open house tours of the ships over the festival. The Commissioner of Irish Lights, responsible for lighthouses right around the country, will be bringing its own ship, The Granuaile, into the harbour and will present a 'Safety at Sea Through War and Upheaval' exhibition from Irish Lights and the Royal Irish Academy, on the role of Irish lighthouses 1911-1923.
'On A Voyage' will be a chance to watch on in awe as Frank Bölter sails an extraordinary large scale origami paper boat! This unusual sailing craft is made out of giant sheets of folded paper using origami techniques and reinforced with metal poles.
Enthusiasts of the traditional sailing Galway Hookers won't be disappointed, with a gathering of Galway Hookers in the harbour, and a day of racing culminating in the challenge for the historic Galway Plate.
Underpinning the fun of SeaFest will be a serious four day focus on research and the marine economy with a number of marine-related business and research events taking place around the city, starting Thursday 30 June; each seeking to explore and strengthen the maritime heritage, economy and identity. The third annual 'Our Ocean Wealth Conference' will feature a number of sessions where speakers and delegates can delve more deeply into the conference theme of Innovating for our Marine Future.
To 'whet' the appetite, 'The Longest River' will be performed at St Augustinian Church (Middle Street) on Wednesday 29th June at 7pm. The performance will provide an opportunity to reflect on our maritime history and the opportunities ahead for mankind and our relationships with the Earth, Ocean and Seas.
SeaFest is also supported by the Port of Galway, National University of Ireland, Galway, the Department of Defence, and the Irish Coastguard.
Visit SeaFest's what's on page for the latest details as they are added to the event's programme of FREE activities, times and locations. For more information on Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth: An Integrated Marine plan for Ireland you can visit www.ouroceanwealth.ie.
* Click here to book your free tickets to the film screenings for SeaFest presents Secret Ocean by Jean Michel Cousteau (2nd & 3rd July).