Waterford is expecting 500,000 visitors for the city's second annual ‘Winterval’ Festival beginning Friday, November 29 and running through New Year's Eve.

The thirty-day Winterval Festival gets underway with the arrival of the ‘Man in Red’ on a Viking Longboat on the River Suir. The festival in Ireland’s oldest city features a variety of traditional family fun activities.

The largest celebration of the festive season in Ireland offers families a selection of over 20 different events and activities, including 13 that are free of charge.

Commenting at the launch of the Winterval Festival, Chairperson Barry Monaghan said, “We are delighted to unveil the program for year two of Winterval, the very first festival last year was a huge success as we had over 250,000 visitors to Waterford City during the festival with lots of families enjoying all of the events the majority of those being free of charge.

Free events at Winterval include a spectacular 3D sound and light show designed especially for Winterval, which will light up the Deanery in Cathedral Square each evening during the festival. A uniquely Irish take on Christmas see’s the Waterford Vikings Fado set up camp at Greyfriars Church where they will demonstrate the traditions of a Viking Christmas. There will also be a celebration of Polish culture with a ‘Traditional Polish Christmas,’ hosted by Waterford’s Polish community and offering festivalgoers gingerbread man-making class for children and lots more at ‘Swiety Mikolaj.’ 

A gigantic Santa’s Postbox of over 10 feet in height will sit at the ‘heart’ of Winterval in the city’s John Robert’s Square. Letters will be collected from the 'postbox' each Saturday and Sunday with a ‘song and dance’ showcase from Waterford Academy of Music and Arts.

Hasbro has joined forces with the festival and hosts a very special Toy Museum at City Hall. The Toy Museum will include a wonderful array of toys that children around the world have enjoyed since the 1930’s!

Further free events include an Animal Farm complete with reindeer, movie screenings, storytelling at Reginald’s Tower and Ireland’s only ‘Singing Christmas Tree’ – a giant tree built at Palace Square over 40 feet tall and which will be filled with choirs on each of it’s branches entertaining the masses with festive song.

Other highlights for festival-goers include: a Georgian Christmas at Bishop’s Palace, a Winterval Express road-train, a horse-drawn sleigh and Waterford On Ice, a host of theatre productions, a carousel, a snowglobe and Helter Skelter.

Santa, once he alights from his Viking Longship, will be escorted by Viking helpers through the city’s medieval streets to the 13th century medieval undercrofts where he will remain to meet boys and girls in his Elfish village and snow garden until December 23.

Commenting at the launch Megan Cassidy of RTE said, “I love Christmas and I loved the 2012 Winterval Festival, when I saw last year what the festival offers children, I knew I wanted to get on board in any way I could.

“The city turns into a wonderland; it is just so magical for families and children. People come from all over the country and beyond to enjoy Winterval and it is fantastic to see the vibrancy and festive cheer that this event creates as Ireland’s Christmas festival.”

In keeping with another tradition established in medieval times when end-of-year markets sprung up as social gatherings where people could enjoy a little excess before the onset of bitter weather. A festive ‘Winterval Market’ will take over the heart of the medieval city where 60 beautifully decorated traditional log cabins will host an offering of the very best quality and range of goods from Ireland’s food and craft producers.

Further details on Winterval events can be found at Winterval.ie.