Portaferry Gala back switch to float parade

Portaferry Gala back switch to float parade

10 January 2018

PORTAFERRY Gala has defended its moving of the float parade from its traditional Friday evening slot to Saturday afternoon.

The gala committee said local pubs, who fund the floats, had proposed the change back in November, which was agreed at a meeting last week.

They said that as a result, there would be an extended programme of events on the day, helping to increase tourism, while staggering the influx of people to avoid congestion. An earlier finish time would also help to avoid “late night incidents” as volunteers cleaned the Square.

Some commentators on the gala’s Facebook page criticised the move and called for the traditional Friday night parade to be maintained.

They argued last week’s meeting should have been better advertised and claimed it could impact on local businesses.

One commentator said: “Why change a formula that has been successful for 50 years? This is not a decision that should be taken unilaterally by publicans. Do not forget this is a community event and it does not look like the community has been even consulted.”

Another said: “Totally ridiculous, this means the town will be blocked off from early morning by the time the floats get ready and into place by 1pm I assume.”

Support was offered, however, for the idea of a family friendly event after the parade.

Responding to the comments, organisers said they had advertised the meeting on their website. They also invited those with opinions on the gala to get involved in helping the committee. 

“The rationale behind the decision is to acknowledge the positive approach from local publicans, who finance the floats, to increase additional access for families and others, both locally and further afield, [also] a day parade allows for an extended programme on the day, this will contribute to social and economic benefits,” the Facebook statement said.

“It will enable floats to return to their base during daylight and the ‘floaters’’ will be able to enjoy the remainder evening entertainment. Importantly, Portaferry will be able to promote itself as a place visitors will want to return to more than once a year.

“The day long offer will stagger the influx of people avoiding congestion of previous years and and an earlier finish will reduce the late night incidents experienced by volunteers while cleaning the Square.

“In conclusion we thank you for your feedback and we would encourage everyone to feel free to volunteer their time for the benefit of all our community. Keep an eye out for the next open meeting as other changes to the festival programme will be necessary.

“To confirm, Gala Fest 2018 will run from Sunday, July 15th, to Saturday the 21st.

“Local businesses have been approached and when informed of the changes all have agreed to co-operate and in response to their collective suggestions the parade is proposed to start at 3pm.

“We genuinely feel it will be a positive move and will secure the future of Gala for years to come.”

Portaferry councillor Joe Boyle said he didn’t mind whether the float parade was on the Friday evening or the Saturday and noted people can be “very fearful of change”.

“Personally I can live with either Friday or Saturday,” he said. “People also have a right to express their opinion.

“Extremely hard work goes into this event by the gala committee and we want to continue to make sure it’s a success, and it will be.”