THE aroma of sausages frying and coffee brewing wafted into the air last Saturday and Sunday morning as the Christmas Market got underway along Bridge Street and into High Street.
The event brought an estimated 15,000 people into Tullamore over the weekend as the start of Christmas shopping got underway.
Many of the local shops gained a spin off from the increase in footfall. Gemma Dunican of ‘Kit your Kitchen’ in the Bridge Centre was very busy on both days. “Saturday and Sunday were great but they will never make up for the losses we experienced during the months of July and August when the street works were taking place,” said Gemma. “It’s all about footfall. We have the civic space now and the wide footpaths. They need to use it now and have more events like that,” she added.
John Douglas of J&M Douglas Jewellers, said it was fantastic and the town was packed. Friday was very busy, Saturday was very busy but on Sunday people were doing more looking than buying,” he said. “It was brilliant to see so many people in the town.” But John added that in the long term what is needed in Tullamore are more factories that will provide people with a more sustained disposable income. He welcomed the news that large scale housing developments are being planned however, he hopes the people that buy them will work in the town rather than commute to somewhere else every day.
Meanwhile Brian Cloonan of Cloonan’s Hardware located on William Street also reported a busy weekend. But he is not sure if it was the presence of the market that brought people through his door. He too is adamant the increase in customers will not make up for the loss to his business while street enhancement works were underway.“It went on so long. We were substantially down on business. But anything that brings people into the town such as the market is good. Brian says he is now “praying for a good Christmas.”
The Christmas Market is the responsibility of the Christmas Lights committee who from humble beginnings using pop-up tents has now moved on to wooden chalets. Chairman of the committee John Leavy said funding for the wooden chalets used by the marketeers came from Offaly Local Development Company. The committee initially purchased 14 then they bought another 14 and have plans to extend it even further.
John said the location of the market this year proved successful adding that “all the shops seemed to get a lift.” But what of shops further away from Bridge Street? “I understand and we have given a commitment to move it [market] around if we can. We were dictated by the street enhancement works, from a health and safety point of view and guided by the gardai with regards to location. If something did happen we have to have wide streets. We will try to move it around as much as possible.”
Marketeers were made up of local crafts people and others from outside the town. Meanwhile people travelled from all over the region to avail of what was on offer.
There are plans in the future to extend the Christmas lights from the Kilbeggan bridge all the way to High Street. The lights in O’Connor Square were admired by many people and John says there are more to come with the south side soon to be lit when more of the work is completed there. In addition when the council plant trees they too will be decorated with Christmas lights.