The Carlow Rooster Festival 2018 which took place over the weekend 5th -7th October has been hailed a success and already questions have been asked in relation to the possibility of this becoming an annual festival.  The inaugural festival was organised by County Carlow Chamber and Teagasc to celebrate the Rooster Potato, developed over 40 years ago at Teagasc in Oak Park.

The weekend opened with a special educational day in Oak Park, where over 600 second level students attended for the day.  Several talks and information boards were provided on topics including machinery, breeding, agronomy, pathology, farm safety and soils.  These talks were designed to meet the needs of the curriculum, while also affording students to opportunity to meet experts in specific areas.  Aoife Hearne and Pádraic Óg Gallagher were also working with students on nutrition and carrying out cookery demonstrations.

Throughout the festival, various hotels, restaurants and cafes had special potato dishes available to celebrate the Roster and its connections to Carlow, while the “SPUB Crawl” saw a variety of entertainment on offer in premises across the town including the Barn Dance in Dinn Ri with Marty Mone.

Saturday 6th was the Family Open Day with a host of events taking place in Oak Park.  All the events were free with funds raised being donated to Embrace Farm, a charity developed to assist families who have been affected through farming accidents.  Throughout the day approx. 4000 people passed through the gates to enjoy the events on offer.

The National Potato Picking Championship saw 12 teams challenging for the title, and the top prize which included a trophy and €500.  Teams consisted of 4 people were allowed 2 minutes to pick as many potatoes as possible, with penalties for excessive stalks, soil, stones etc in their bags.  The wining team managed to pick 104.9kg in the 2 minutes, narrowly ahead of the runner up with 102.1kg.

One of the most popular parts of the festival was the “Pick your Own” where everyone was invited to pick potatoes to take home.  There was no charge for taking part or for the potatoes, however everyone was asked to make a donation, with 100% of funds raised going to Embrace Farm.  The event was very popular and saw people picking bags of potatoes to take home both for themselves and also to distribute to family and friends.

The demonstration stage also welcomed some of our talented local chefs, who wowed the crowds with their creations and also tips.  The first chef to the stage was Caolon Pendergast of the Woodford Dolmen Hotel to make his “Walsh Whiskey Rooster Custard Pie”; followed by chef William Bayle of the Talbot Hotel Carlow who cooked up “Rooster potato pancakes with mushroom filling”.  The final chef to take to the stage was local celebrity Edward Hayden, who prepared a “Leek and Potato Soup” with homemade brown bread.

The festival continued into the night with a barn dance in Dinn Ri, where crowds turned up to enjoy Marty Mone who entertained with hits like “Slip the Clutch” and “Ghost of Time”.

The Rooster Festival was organised by County Carlow Chamber and Teagasc and with the support of Bord Bia, Carlow County Council, IPM, Agriaware, Carlow Tourism and Vita. All funds raised were donated to Embrace FARM, a charity which provides a bereavement support group for farm families, helping those who have lost a loved one or, indeed, suffered serious injury in a farming accident.  In addition to the funds raised by pick your own, the winning team donated their winnings to Embrace Farm, bringing the total funds raised by the festival over €1600.

Thomas Sunderland Photography _2

Presenting funds raised by the Rooster Festival to Embrace FARM – L-R.  Gerry Boyle (Director of Teagasc), Sean Mulvaney (Head of Technology Transfer, Teagasc), John Spink (Head of Environment, Crops and Land Use Programme at Teagasc), Denis Griffin (Research Officer, Teagasc), Norma Rohan (Embrace FARM), Stephen Kildea (Senior Research Officer, Teagasc), Derek Shannon (County Carlow Chamber, Love Carlow)