OFFALY is in line for a significant financial boost as the All Ireland and International Sheep Shearing Championships comes to the South East next June.
The event, which runs in the custom-built Cilln Hill exhibition centre on the Carlow side of Kilkenny, coincides with the annual Cat Laughs Comedy Festival and hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts across Kilkenny are already booked up.
The spill-over into Offaly will be a welcome windfall for hoteliers, restaurant owners and bed and breakfast providers in the area as competitors, supporters, their families and friends from all over Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand flock to the region for the annual event.
The state-of-the-art Cilln Hill indoor arena has been confirmed as the venue for the national festival event which is expected to draw 15,000 plus visitors from across Ireland and abroad to the city over the busy June Bank Holiday Weekend.
The event will be a fantastic boost for the entire south east and surrounding counties, an opportunity to showcase the region and its incredible natural amenities to a global audience, the organisers say.
A family-focused programme will run alongside the sheep shearing competitions, with music, entertainment, artisan foods, arts and crafts exhibitions, trade stands and information seminars all planned in and around the extensive Cilln Hill arena on the edge of the city.
Event co-ordinator, Marie Doyle, said the city will already be busy with Cat Laughs Comedy Festival revellers the same weekend and the Championships will be an extra revenue generator for surrounding counties such as Offaly, Carlow, Laois, Waterford and Tipperary.
"While Kilkenny will play host to two major events on the same weekend, there is fantastic potential for cross-over and an extra special weekend for all in Offaly to reap the rewards of having such a major event on its doorstep," she said.
"The Sheep Shearing Championship 2011 will draw visitors from across Ireland and abroad, families, craft makers, food lovers and those from within and outside the agricultural community, the majority of whom will most likely not stay in the city but in hotels, guesthouses, self-catering as well as bed and breakfast accommodation right across the region.
"We are working on a family-focused festival and lots of exciting events are planned to bring families to Kilkenny and to entice Cat Laughs revellers out of town for a few hours each day. As well as featuring all the top competitors from Ireland and the UK, the 2011 event will draw competitors and visitors from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand.
"Cilln Hill is an excellent venue as, regardless of the weather, we've loads of competition and exhibition space and plenty of room for all the family to browse, relax and enjoy the festivities in comfort and safety," she said.
"The 2011 festival event also offers us an amazing opportunity to showcase what is best about the sunny south east and it will be an incredible marketing opportunity for the region, local businesses, food producers etc. We're developing a website at present, www.sheepshearing2011.ie and hope to begin a mailshot of potential exhibitors and visitors soon," she added.