Committee stalwarts Anne Starling and Cllr Declan Harvey busy at work before Sunday's switch-on
THE Christmas season will be kicked off this Sunday in Tullamore when the town's Christmas lights are officially switched-on.
This year the Covid-19 pandemic means that the annual public switch-on, which attracts up to 15,000 people into the town centre for a gala evening, has been forced online.
The virtual switch-on will take place from O'Connor Square at 5pm and will be streamed live online on Midlands103.com
“We would ask people not to come to the Square but to livestream the event and watch proceedings from the comfort of their own homes,” said John Leavy, Chairman of the Tullamore Christmas Lights Project.
Despite the Covid restrictions and the huge impact the pandemic has had on the local economy the committee behind the Christmas lights have invested €30,000 in new lights on the town's main stretch from Kilbeggan Bridge to High St.
This follows on from a massive project of investment over the past three years which has seen new lights and features provided in O'Connor Square, Market Square, Patrick St, Harbour St, Church St and Henry St.
This year new lights and features will also be erected at Kilbride St and Kilbride Plaza said Mr Leavy.
The investment is a huge vote of confidence in the town in what has been a challenging year for business locally said the Henry St retailer.
The Project is a partnership initiative between the Tullamore Business Group, Offaly County Council and Offaly Local Development Company.
He added that this year they will get the opportunity to complete the lighting scheme for the now completed enhanced O’Connor Square as well as all the usual attractions, the festive post box and Santa's Grotto will also form centre pieces but that the Christmas market, a big attraction for the past number of years, will not take place due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.
Mr Leavy paid tribute to all who had supported the project including local retailers and businesses, Seamus Walsh and his team, Carroll of Tullamore, Spar, Tullamore DEW, Tom Shanahan, Director of Services, and the team at Offaly County Council, Brendan O Loughlin and team in Offaly Local Development Company and the Christmas Lights committee.
“We are very grateful that the Christmas lights have been driven financially by the support from the council, OLDC and local businesses,” said Mr Leavy.
He stressed that this has been a very challenging year and his group was very conscious that many hard pressed local businesses had been closed for much of the year and would find it difficult to support the project financially this year.
However, he appealed to those who were in a position to donate to the project to continue to support the Christmas lights which play such a vital part in the town's economy and social life in the lead up to the festive season.
“Any contribution will be very welcome,” said the Henry St business man adding that it is also hoped to establish a GoFundMe page where donations can be made to the project.
Mr Leavy paid tribute to Carroll's of Tullamore who have come on board this year as the Christmas lights main sponsor.
He added: “We had been faced with an extremely difficult situation when planning for Christmas 2020, taking a view to shelve elements of and scale back the project for the festive period. We were delighted when Carroll’s of Tullamore offered their assistance to the project. It fantastic to see this local company coming to the aid of the local business community in what has been a very difficult trading year.”
He continued: “I would like to further appeal to people to think twice this year before shopping on line, many of your local shops have been closed throughout the year. “Think Tullamore first” and keep those Christmas purchases locally in your town. It’s important we all come together, to support and protect the businesses in town this year. Our partnership with Carroll’s of Tullamore highlights more than ever the importance of working together as a community and supporting local business and employment. We look forward to developing a fruitful relationship with the company over the coming years.”