CASTLECOMER kicked off 2011 a colourful fashion as the 31st-annual Wellie Race and fancy-dress float parade took to the streets on New Year's Day.
There were so many high-calibre floats, in fact, that it wasn't clear which one would capture the top prize – which in the end went to 'James Bond 007' from Ballyhemmon, Castlecomer.
Complete with a fully flying airplane – and an 'undercover toilet' – the expertly engineered float won over the crowd and the judges as the hero saved the day once again.
Flying machines were one of the themes of the parade, as Willie Joe Meally's 'Helibicycle' flew into first place in his category and a float from Knocknadogue/Conahy featured "the last flight leaving for Australia". As the emigration-themed float proclaimed: "Over 5,000 years ago Moses said to the children of Egypt, pick up your shovels, mount your asses and camels and I will lead you to the promised land. Over 10 years ago Bertie Ahern raised the dole and said to the people of Ireland, lay down your shovels, sit on your a**es, light up your Camels because this is the promised land. Now Brian Cowen has stolen your shovels, taxed your a**es and sold the promised land."
Plenty of other animals featured in the parade as well, from 'Farmer Kiel and His Dog' to pups 'Snowie and Max', who made their Wellie Race debut on the day. Even the Castlecomer Discovery Park float was animal-friendly, with the Easter Bunny among its characters.
A six-pack of 'Fat Cats' got on their bikes for the occasion – in healthy competition with the Deenside Wheelers, a newly formed cycling club based in Castlecomer who presented their new club colours on the day.
A cat of the actual feline variety meanwhile featured in Firoda's own YouTube float as "the neighbour from hell" deposited a cat into a bin, mimicking the video that caused a stir during the year. Happily, no animals were injured during the presentation of the float, as the cat involved had plenty of hay on which to rest and was no doubt rewarded with a tasty morsel afterwards.
The Firoda float also hit on another of the parade's most popular subjects: the Rubberbandits. The Rockafoyle Stables presented their pony Ginger in a demonstration of a traditional shoeing method, but their pony was by no means the only 'horse outside'.
The Limerick duo may not have captured the Christmas No 1 with their hit song Horse Outside, but it was the subject of its own float during the parade as well. The float 'in a church on Thomas Street' saw the duo wearing the customary plastic bags over their head, and they were even trailed by the lyrical Honda Civic.
Nor was it the only musical interlude in this year's parade. After the Killeshin Pipe Band kicked off proceedings following the lead of Wellie Race personality Evanne Ni Chuilinn, Wellie Queen Noeleen Murtagh and her daughter, Wellie Princess Danielle, the women's football team Gaelic For Mothers gave a rendition of Singing in the Rain, and Kildare's All-Ireland turf-cutting pair Colm and John Harrigan later gave the crowd a song as well. There was also music from the Ballycallan Fife and Drum Band and the St Joseph's Accordion Band from Portlaoise.
Banditry was on the mind of several float-makers though, as reminders of the events of 2010 couldn't help but include the doings of Ireland's banks and the arrival of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
'Bank Bandit' Oisin Dwyer O'Neill was first on the scene in the parade, and several of the floats featured a bit of robbing and stealing. At one point the A-Team was called in to "save the Wellie Queen", while the Powley Vale's own float, a 'Free For All Bank', saw Jesse James robbing the bank of Dodge City, a 'laundering service' that would hang both stolen money and bank customers out to dry, and a place to sort out 'bouncy cheques'. The gang even managed to carry out a Northern Bank raid using 'explosives' before escaping in a Jeep with a Northern Ireland registration, clearing the way for a digger to then break through the back of the float and make a clean getaway with its 'ATM'.
One of the more feel-good highlights of 2010 was the subject of another well-crafted float: 'Mine Rescuing Ballyragget-Style'. It was one rescue package that the public could willingly support as the local crew of "rockologists, professors, engineers, metallurgical technicians and mostly chancers" successfully raised three 'miners' to the surface.
Young people had their say on the state of things as well, with one group presenting "2010: End of the world as we know it". Bookended by "the big freeze", it was a year in which "the country came to a halt", "the McCarthy Cup made the trip to Tipp" and "IMF outsiders invade".
The future wasn't much warmer from the perspective of Castlecomer Forige Club's float either. Despite taking care to protect the world for future generations by incorporating recyclable and reusable materials in their float, the teens had messages such as "Looking for work" and "Our float got robbed – and our freedom". They did manage to take a positive slant on the freezing weather of 2010, however, by creating "Comer's bid for the 2022 World Cup". Their slogan: "If Qatar is too hot at 100+, play in 'Comer during the winter, -100."
And if all else fails, the "green field site" – aka the Four Green Fields – could end up being sold to the Germans, if Patsy Brennan's float 'Ireland 2015' is anything to go by. "We fought for it in 1916, now it looks like Betreten des Grases, 'Keep off the grass'." If the quality of what was produced for the 2011 Wellie Race float parade was anything to go by, the buyers will get their money's worth.
IN true Kilkenny style, runner Mick Coyle captured a four-in-a-row in the Castlecomer Wellie Race on New Year's Day.
The Naas AC club man was among the 500 runners and walkers to complete the four-mile circuit of the 31st-annual event.
The honour of first lady to cross the finishing line fell to Mary Burke, (nee Farrell) of Tramore, Co Waterford and formerly of Byrnesgrove. The was her third victory, having won in 2008 and 2009 as well.
Those who completed the race were congratulated at the finish line by Welle Race Personality Evanne Ni Chuilinn, including her boyfriend Brian Fitzsimons.
There were also typically untypical scenes of 'Santa' congratulating 'Wonder Woman' and 'Buzz Lightyear' as some undertook the challenge of running or walking in fancy dress.
The full list of winners in the 2011 Castlecomer Wellie Race:
Men: 1. Mick Coyle. 2. Paul Mahon. 3. Philip Lonergan. 4. Philip Fennelly. 5. Philip Culbert. 6. Stuart Galloway. 7. P.J. Blanche. 8. Patrick Clarke. 9. P.J. Doyle. 10. John Mulhall.
Women: 1. Mary Burke. 2. Teresa Agar. 3. Breda Mulcahy. 4. Anita McMahon. 5. Eilish Bollard. 6. Hilary Jenkinston. 7. Carmel Ryan. 8. Rebecca Harper. 9. Madeline Ronan. 10. Esther Ring.
Veterans: 1. Jim Boland. 2. Martin Kelly. 3. Jim Healy.
Senior ladies: 1. Margaret Dillon. 2. Catherine Longstaff. 3. Fiona Maher.
Fancy Dress: 1. Mick "Tiger" Byrne.
The fancy-dress float parade winners were:
Children (individual): 1. Ryan Tubridy. 2. Big Freeze. 3. Spiderman.
Children (group 2-5): 1. Trip to Tipp. 2. Super Mario Kart. 3. Pot of Gold.
Adult (individual): 1. The Helibicycle. 2. Ireland 2015.
Adult (group 2-5): 1. The Turf Cutters.
Floats: 1. James Bond 007. 2. Powley Vale Free For All Bank. 3. Chilean Miners Rescuing Ballyragget Style. 4. Knocknadogue – Conahy – Emigration. 5. Firoda U Tube.