Crowd figures help Galway festival to survive testing timeAugust 9, 2012 - 8:09am
IF ever the popularity of the Galway summer festival was going to come under serious strain, it was bound to be the 2012 week-long meeting. The portents were ominous as bad weather and the continuing recession threatened to have a major negative impact on the crown jewel of the Irish racing calendar.
The prophets of doom were having a field day, but not alone has Galway’s enduring appeal remained intact, but on two days of the meeting – the Monday evening and Sunday cards – the crowds were up on 2011, while the attendance of 37,033 on Guinness Hurdle day will be, by some distance, the biggest attendance at a single racing fixture this year.
Naturally, the weather and the country’s economic woes did have some impact on the numbers of racegoers heading to Ballybrit – the overall crowd for the week was down over 15,000 – but Galway still remains the envy of all tracks around the country for its unique ability to get people through the turnstiles.
Even Irish Derby day at The Curragh or the Leopardstown Christmas and Punchestown festivals can’t come close to those figures, while this year’s Galway fixture also had to cope with the added attractions of Volvo Ocean Race and the London Olympic Games.
It is beyond doubt that some people who normally attend the Galway Races came to the city earlier this summer to sample the unique atmosphere of the Volvo Ocean extravaganza, while the blanket TV coverage of the Olympics would also have had some impact on numbers heading to Ballybrit.
In the build up to the festival, track manager John Moloney was aware of the influence of those counter attractions, together with poor weather forecasts, but those factors were outside of his control. He trusted the meeting’s pulling power and its continued ability to lure people from all different walks of life.
Moloney admits, however, that it was a ‘testing time’ in the build up to and during the festival.
“The bad weather made things difficult and there was a lot of rain, but Gerry Broderick and the course staff worked exceptionally hard in ensuring there was minimum disruption. We had to do a lot of moving around, but the island hurdles were a great help.”
It was Moloney’s 23rd festival to oversee in Galway and even he was taken aback by the crowd of over 20,000 for Friday night’s card.
“It was a great turn out given that it rained all evening. The festival is still a massive institution, especially when you see over 37,000 people here for the Guinness Hurdle, while maybe the best ever racehorse Frankel only attracted 21,000 to Goodwood the previous afternoon.”
For full details of each day and more reviews of the Festival see this week’s Tribune.