Posted by: mdmusingsie | May 6, 2012

Craic ar an trá

Entertainment abounds this time of year and today I found myself in Salthill for An Tóstal, a celebration of Irish coastal traditions and customs featuring the All-Ireland Currach races.

Teams of two or three raced the boats in Galway Bay parallel to the promenade,  maneuvering through one water roundabout (i.e. buoys) for the smaller teams and two for the larger, senior teams, before returning to the start/finish line.

As a former patron of the Portland Dragon Boat races, I can say this is a much longer race, requiring quite a bit more endurance.  The boats aren’t as decorative, the oars bear a closer resemblance to a chopstick than a paddle, no one beats a drum to set the rhythm of the rowing, and there is no lithe body hanging out the front of the boat to snatch a flag, but it’s just as fun and competitive.

Currach races weren’t the only entertainment.  To keep the wee folk occupied, there was a sand castle building contest and also a children’s disco area, in case they didn’t burn off enough of their excess energy in the sand.   I’m certain many were fueled by the plethora of ice cream available – I finally caved in after watching a steady parade of soft serve cones pass by.  Since it’s dairy, I think I can get away with calling it lunch (especially since that’s what it was).

The Olympics may have the hammer toss, but An Tóstal had a very Irish Wellie toss.  Both men and women took turns tossing a Wellington boot as far as they could.  Some lacked both form and function but excelled in comedy, though I doubt that’s the effect they were “aiming” for.  Entertainment with a sense of humor.  There was a series of tug of war competitions in the sand, as well.  Hard to believe they had no trouble coming up with two women’s teams to compete against each other but had to put an extra shout out to get enough men for a competition.

One of the famous Galway Hookers even made an appearance.  (Sorry lads, I’m not referring to the red light district variety).   If you still don’t know what I mean, check out the photos of the boat with the black sails below.

There was plenty of Irish being spoken on the prom and by the announcers, but I was pleased to discover that I could understand a good bit of the race calling.  Maybe it’s finally starting to sink in.

The weather was perfect with alternating bright sunshine with the filtered variety.  A cool breeze came and went to keep the temperature comfortable.  The beautiful water, soft white sand, and great craic made it a very enjoyable day.

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