Packed schedule for 2016 Connemara Mussel Festival

'The Bagman Bags the Mussels' Patrick ‘Rala’ O’Reilly with Connemara Mussel Festival chairman Gerard Coyne. 2

Some 100,000 of Connemara’s finest mussels will be devoured in Tullycross this May Bank Holiday (April 29 – May 1).

The organisers of the Connemara Mussel Festival have tonnes of the popular mollusc on order to feed the hungry hordes expected for the three-day festival, which was officially launched on Sunday last in Renvyle House Hotel.

Former Irish Rugby Team bagman Patrick ‘Rala’ O’Reilly launched the festival, while Mayor of Galway City, Frank Fahy, Leas Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, Malachy Noone and Brian Quinn of Fáilte Ireland also attended.

It is the 11th anniversary of the festival, which was started in an effort to promote the growing mussel industry in the nearby Killary Harbour and the tourism industry in the area.

More than 1,000 tonnes of mussels are taken from Killary Harbour each year, and the industry employs 120 people full-time and some 250 part-timers during harvesting.

It was in an effort to bring jobs to the locality that a small group of locals again looked to the potential of the bay.

‘The mussel festival grew out of the industry, really,’ explained Dermot O’ Donovan, of the organising committee. ‘Now both the industry and the festival are booming.’

The festival organisers are expecting up to 2,500 people at this year’s festival, making it one of the top food festivals in the country.

Mussels will be served in pubs, restaurants and on the street over the weekend. However, food is not the only consideration, with many cultural events taking place, including a talk by Anne Hodge (curator of prints and drawings at the National Gallery of Ireland) about the famous Eton College drawing master William Evans, a water-colour painter who depicted the rugged landscape of Connemara in the 18th century.

Eibhear Walshe from UCC will give a talk on Oscar Wilde’s Connemara connections.

Over the weekend some of the finest chefs in the country will showcase their culinary skills in a variety of demonstrations. There will also be cookery competitions for amateurs, celebrities and student chefs from GMIT.

On Friday night, renowned musician Sean Keane will play a gig in Tullycross Church. On Saturday and Sunday, there are events taking place throughout the day including an artisan market, guided walks, drama presentations and children’s storytelling. Talks on a variety of subjects, including organic vegetable gardening and local archaeology are planned, as well as a whole host of activities for children throughout the weekend.