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Market to extend Christmas spirit with a two-month run


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Market to extend Christmas spirit with a two-month run Market to extend Christmas spirit with a two-month run

The Galway Christmas Market, which will open on November 10, will trade for a record two months this year, following the decision to reopen on St Stephen’s Day for another for 13 days.

The extended 59-day market is being run as a pilot in response to feedback from businesses who called for trading to continue into the new year to encourage greater footfall on what can be a quieter period for retailers and the hospitality sector.

Operator Maria Moynihan Lee said it was too early to gauge how many chalets would remain open after Christmas because the licence was only granted by Galway City Council on October 13.

“I think between 20 and 25 traders are going to land from St Stephen’s Day, so it will be a scaled-back version, confined to Eyre Square North and on the plaza in Kennedy Park,” she told the Galway City Tribune.

“The main things going are the kinds of things which have a best-before Christmas date, like gifts, ornaments, crib pieces, a lot of the skincare because they are mainly gift items. But we’re leaving up the wheel, which such an iconic symbol of Galway at Christmas, and the vintage amusements.”

The popular Bier Keller will also have an extended run, operating until the last day of December.

Around 60 wooden chalets will trade across Eyre Square from Friday fortnight, November 10, until December 22. Amusements will be open until lunchtime on Christmas Eve while the bars will close down at 10pm on December 23.

Then on St Stephen’s Day the mini-market opens until January 7.

Asked if the bar, which is run by the Róisín Dubh, will operate an advanced booking system like last year, which led to extensive queues on some nights, Ms Moynihan Lee said it was likely at peak times leading up to Christmas.

“The queue was a one-off because of technical problems. We’re not expecting that to happen again.”

Bookings for the artisan craft stalls along the Skeffington Arms side of the square – which enjoy discounted rates for the seasonal event – are full.

The founder of event management company Milestone Creative which has run the market since 2011, on its second year of operating, Ms Moynihan Lee declined to reveal how much extra is being paid to Galway City Council to operate after Christmas.

Earlier this year, when it sought tenders to operate the market for three years, Galway City Council estimated the contract was worth €40,000 to the successful tenderer. The local authority had called for a revamped offering for the event.

Only two companies tendered and Milestone Inventive were successful once again.

Dublin, Cork and Limerick pay private companies to hold Christmas markets and events. In previous contracts, Milestone Inventive paid €30,000 plus a bond to Galway City Council to run it in Eyre Square. They are responsible for cleaning up the square and footing bills for electricity, insurance and security.

The ice rink in Salthill will not return again this year after it failed to attract tenders willing to pay a fee to set up on public land.

City Tourism Officer Ruairi Lehmann said the fee for the market was along the same lines as previous years.

“We had asked to have at least 20% of traders new every year and in fairness the artisan stalls on the Skeff side are different every year and we have different charities collecting so there is a good rotation. We are always on the lookout how we can keep it fresh,” he told the Tribune.

“It does what we want – it draws in people to spend the day or the weekend, it creates an atmosphere and spreads people out across the city to spend money.

“We will know fairly quickly if it also brings in people during that quieter time after Christmas until the school holidays when a lot of businesses are closed and people are looking for something else to do. Milestone have delivered every year and they get very positive feedback.”

Galway City Councillor Niall McNelis, who runs Quay Street Claddagh and Celtic Jewellery, said the Christmas Market was vital to retail and hospitality owners as a hook to drawing in visitors.

“People come into Galway to soak up the atmosphere at the Christmas market. You pass through the market, it creates a nice feeling. Even for me, on the other end of the town, I get a benefit, the whole town does. Hotels in Galway are now using it as a key festival event in their marketing.”

The Christmas lights are expected to be turned on the same night, but without a ceremony, due to concerns over health and safety and crowd numbers.

Hours of operation are from noon to 10pm Mondays to Wednesdays, 10am to 10pm Thursdays to Saturdays and 10am to 8pm on Sundays. Bars open till 10pm every day.

Milestone Inventive are currently organising three Halloween events, in Waterford, Limerick and Longford, and two other Christmas events outside Galway. The company ran the Galway International Seafood Festival last month.

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