DOWNPATRICK will be trading on its famous connections with the Patron Saint of Ireland this month as the extended St Patrick’s Celebrations prepare to bring colour, craic and many visitors to the County town from 11-18 March.
Getting right behind the celebrations will be Downpatrick’s traders, giving locals and visitors alike some extra reasons for shopping in the vibrant town centre. Down District Council and local businesses have come together to create a special discount voucher booklets which will offer great shopping advantages and special offers at a host of retail outlets in the town. 25,000 of the booklets will be distributed to homes across the district and are available now from local retailers and visitor centres.
Alongside this, shoppers will get the opportunity to enter a £500 Shopping Spree Competition with a chance to win a Shopping Spree worth £500 in Downpatrick, alongside a runner’s up prize of £100 in vouchers. So if you are in need of a wardrobe make-over or fancy getting that new “must-have” gadget for the home, or maybe you just love to shop ’til you drop but your bank account can’t stand the strain, then this is the solution. Entry forms are available at participating retailers.
Speaking on behalf of the town’s traders, Patrick Cassidy of Cassidy’s Shoes said: “The St Patrick’s Celebrations bring huge numbers of visitors in to the town each year, giving a welcome boost to local trade as they browse around shops, buy coffee, a meal or a drink or even stay over to make the most of an incredible programme of events. Together with Council, we’ve been working hard to ensure that we make the most of that opportunity, capitalising on the potential which the St Patrick’s programme has to benefit the local economy.
“At the heart of our approach is the message that Downpatrick has both great variety and great value and we are determined that many of those who visit Downpatrick initially to enjoy events in the St Patrick’s Celebrations programme will be so impressed that they will return at a later stage to shop and socialise here.”
Traders will also be celebrating St Patrick’s weekend with colourful window displays and students from the dynamic Art and Design Department at the South Eastern Regional College have already been busy with brushes and paint pots, creating window murals. Their art work promotes the musical theme of the 2013 St Patrick’s Parade: ‘Name That Tune’ as well as encouraging passers-by to check out the strong musical content of the programme which offers everything from major indoor and outdoor concerts to a variety of street music.
One local business, Downpatrick Race Course, has shown its support for the St Patrick’s Celebrations by opening its gates to provide the public with free parking on Sunday 17 March when the annual Cross-Community Carnival Parade is expected to attract 30,000 + visitors to the town. A free shuttle bus service will operate between the racecourse and Downpatrick Town from 9.00am – 8.00pm. A quirky alternative is to park at Inch Abbey and take the ‘St Patrick’s Express’ train to steam into the heart of the carnival. (Train tickets £5.50 for adults, concessions £4.50 and children under 3 free).
Adding to the retail ‘offer’ over St Patrick’s weekend (from Friday 15 – Monday 18 March) will be an Artisan Food and Craft Market specially created in St Patrick’s Square in the town centre ranging from delectable desserts, hand crafted jewellery, gorgeous accessories, hog roast and live cooking demonstrations with local produce and well known chefs. Already businesses from around the country have committed to showcasing, sampling and selling their wares in what will be a relaxed and charming setting over a key holiday period. In particular Down District Council is hoping that the weekend market will help small enterprises – either working alone or in small groups – to expand their business horizons. The market will provide them with an instant and affordable means of retailing direct to the public during one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Affordability is at the heart of the massive event programme for 2013 and shoppers will find no shortage of things to do if they feel they need a break from all that hectic retail therapy! On the morning of Friday 15 March Frank Mitchell will be enlivening the town centre with the U105 Live Broadcast and his particular brand of music and chat, followed by U105 Roadshow on Saturday 16 March from 12noon when Johnny Hero will take to the stage and again on Sunday 17 March from 1.00pm with Johnny Hero and Pamela Ballantine entertaining the crowds.
The main attraction for the celebrations will be the Cross Community Carnival Parade from 2.30pm on Sunday 17 March, followed by the free open air concert
Rebecca McQuoid, Manager of New Look said: “In today’s tough economic climate we all need to support our local economy, but doing so has rarely been so easy or so pleasurable. With over fifty events to choose from and an absolute wealth of entertainment on offer, Downpatrick is poised for a great festive St Patrick’s season. All that remains is to encourage people to come out and enjoy what has been laid on in the town.”
To find out more about the 2013 St Patrick’s Celebrations pick up your free programme from Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre or visit:
The St Patrick’s Celebrations are supported by the NI Executive through the Department for Social Development.