Galway: A city of festivals

by Kjerstin Engebretson, WSA Intern

Galway, Ireland, the city of festivals.  I mean literally, there are a multitude of festivals throughout the year in this charming Irish city that thrives on all things cultural.  As a visiting student currently living and studying in Galway, I have already experienced a vast amount of unique festivals and events week by week.  Honestly, if I have not expressed the cultural passion of this city enough already, take a look for yourself and start questioning why you have not pursued a trip for yourself to the heart of the West of Ireland.

Summer is the time for festivals, and Galway certainly does not disappoint.  I unfortunately arrived shortly after the famous Galway International Arts Festival and the Summer Galway Races, just to name a few, but the autumn season has presented itself with truly electrifying events and festivals as well.  Besides the rare beautiful September weather, I was able to partake in the International Galway Tattoo Show, Culture Night Galway, Guinness Amplify, and the Galway Oyster Festival in a matter of two weeks.  Shortly after, October did not let down, with the Galway Jazz Festival and the Vodafone Comedy Carnival running back to back. I swear that every time I look at some sort of social media platform, I find five new things to add to my “Galway To-Do List” that week. This city goes insanely crazy for festivals.

Galway goes especially crazy for Halloween. The entire city was covered in spooky spider webs and pumpkin decorations, and when I say the ENTIRE city, I seriously mean it.  Every single pub, family restaurant, storefront, and office had an elaborate display to stress the importance of cultural festivals and the love for the holiday. Though many events have impressed me, there was one that stood above the rest: The Macnas Parade.  Macnas is an award-winning theatre, spectacle, and processional company that has presented itself within a host of festivals across Ireland, Europe, and beyond.  Take a look at their website, for a closer look, as they “theatrically transform and perform visually dynamic and stunning work indoors and outdoors,” as well as “conjuring up playful, delicious and delirious stories…that sit in a world on the edge of things where [these] stories emerge and journeys begin.”  I know, I know.  That sounds a bit lofty, but if you could imagine a spooky jaw-dropping Halloween spectacle right before your eyes, Macnas does it better. 

On Sunday October 26th, the ‘Symphony for the Restless’ kicked off the week of Halloween festivities in the Latin Quarter of Galway. The certainly ostentatious parade twisted its way through the city, including parading down the infamous Shop Street.  I stood near the parade’s end, patiently awaiting the surprising sights and sounds coming my way.  It started with a lone saxophone player jamming to the sounds of his own soulful jazz that echoed through the streets.  Following the opener, an array of massive, animated figures moved their way through the crowds of people, with spotted groups of ‘masked’ volunteers who danced, cackled and acknowledged the audience.  This created an intimate parade setting where you could interact with the spectacle yourself, besides the astonishing shock to your senses.  With every drumbeat, red flare, jazz rhythm, firework explosion, and scary ‘masked’ figure, the dynamic, theatrical performance ignited your senses and got in your face.  And that is what makes Macnas [and Galway] special: its dedication for creativity. 

I sincerely appreciate and love this city to its core, and within a few short weeks, I will have to say, “until we meet again Galway,” as I have to come back for more.  Until then, I will engage in the list of festivals and events that are coming my way, especially Galway Restaurant Week, Galway Design Week, Galway City on Ice, the Flea Style Market, and last but certainly not least, the Galway Continental Christmas Market.  


Katie Barglowski, University of Northern Colorado

Happy Backpackers

My WSA experience was incredible. It was very well-organized, and my tour guide made me feel right at home. I always felt safe, which was important to me. We got to see so much in a short amount of time, but it didn't feel rushed. I was very impressed!

Katie Barglowski, University of Northern Colorado ~ St. Patrick's College, Dublin, Fall 2015

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