Wexford town is set for a tourism boost this June as organizers of the John Barry Maritime Festival unveil their 2013 programme and expect an influx of 50,000 visitors to enjoy the seaside activities this month. The festival takes place in Wexford town from June 20 to 23.
Speaking at the programme launch, Lorraine Galvin, Festival coordinator said that this is the second annual event, and it is a bigger and better festival programme than the inaugural event in 2012, which drew crowds of 35,000 over two days.
“We have been working hard on the this festival offering since August of 2012 and we’re delighted to unveil such an expansive programme, we have a visiting fleet of vessels including all weather Lifeboats, Navy vessels, Customs Cutter, Celtic Mist and a tall ship. We will be hosting the National Thundercat Racing Championships and we will have lots of more gentle water sports on offer for all the family. All of these activities are either free of charge or at a nominal fee and we look forward to welcoming even more people to join in the festival celebrations this year.”
According to Galvin, “this festival based on a Idea for fun on the quay and to raise fund for the RNLI developed into an idea for a maritime festival," says Lorraine.
Maritime activities including enjoying kayaking and boating and raft races, arts and crafts, science experiments, a funfair, live music and entertainment, exhibitions, cultural events and the Wexford food village will all be on offer for visitors to enjoy.
As well as family fun, the festival also celebrates Wexford man Commodore John Barry, father of the US Navy. In September 2012 the festival directors invited two US Navy Rear Admirals to Wexford and discussed plans for the 2013 festival and forming links with the US Navy.
"The Rear Admirals had great admiration for John Barry and were very interested in learning more of his heritage and home town told by historian Bernard Brown," said Frank O Brien of the RNLI.
A short history of John Barry
During the 1700s a young John Barry from Ballysampson, near Tacumshin, sailed from Wexford as a ship's cabin boy. After some years at sea, he finally settled in Philadelphia. With the outbreak of war between the Colonies and England, Barry was given the task of outfitting the first Continental Navy ships. He received a captain's commission in the Continental Navy dated 7 December 1775, signed by the President of Congress, John Hancock. Having commanded several warships and fighting many battles both at sea and in the land war, John Barry fought the last battle of the Revolution on 10 March 1783. President George Washington appointed Barry as Commander-in-Chief of the new Navy of the Constitutional United States of America. Commodore John Barry is known as the Father of the American Navy.
Over the years, many efforts were made to honor Commodore Barry in his own native place and in September 1956 the President of Ireland, His Excellency Sean T. O'Kelly unveiled the magnificent bronze statue of Commodore Barry at Crescent Quay, a present from the people of America to the people of Ireland. The statue is the work of American sculpture, Wheeler Williams and was shipped over to Rosslare Harbour on board the destroyer, USS Charles S. Sperry. On 27 August 1962, former American President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, made a brief visit to Wexford on a very wet and windy day to place a wreath at the Barry Memorial. It was President Eisenhower who brought the project of a memorial to fruition following many years of discussion and the intervention of WWII which put this idea into abeyance.
As part of his visit to Ireland which will be commemorated in Wexford this June President John Fitzgerald Kennedy visited County Wexford and the ancestral home of his Irish grandfather at Dunganstown, New Ross followed by a visit to Wexford town where he was conferred with the signal honor as an Honorary Freeman of Wexford. Prior to this public ceremony at Redmond Place, President Kennedy paid homage to one of his maritime heroes, Commodore John Barry, Father of the American Navy, a navy to which President Kennedy had served as an officer.
The links forged between Wexford and the United States of America began with Commodore John Barry in the eighteenth century. These links are still vibrant today through the association with Wexford town's sister city of Annapolis, Maryland home of the United States Naval Academy. The Naval Academy was founded in 1845 on the site of Fort Severn, and occupies an area of land reclaimed from the Severn River next to Chesapeake Bay.