The fourth annual Scarecrow Festival gets underway in Leap this weekend. Having started out as a simple idea to keep the village alive during a quiet time of the year, it now attracts people from all over the country
BY BRIAN MOORE
FUELLED by ‘furry biscuits,’ Leap is once more Ireland’s scariest village and will celebrate Halloween in spooktacular style.
For the past three years, thanks to the vision of local resident Rita Ryan, helped by a community of willing volunteers and a never ending supply of Mikado (what they call their furry biscuits), Leap’s Scarecrow Festival has attracted people from far and wide.
Rita, who is originally from Thurles, Co.Tipperary, came up with the idea to hold a Halloween festival back in 2015.
‘I moved to Leap and to a wonderful community 35 years ago, with my husband who is originally from Kilbrittain,’ Rita said. ‘But on a visit back to Thurles I noticed that there were scarecrows put up about the square as part of the Halloween celebrations. We just thought it might be nice to have a festival of fun for Halloween, in our quiet little village, and we hoped that maybe a few people from the surrounding areas might find it amusing and come and join us.’
Rita, who described herself as, ‘a dog with a bone,’ set out with her friend and local dynamo, Toni McDermott to create a festival that has not only put Leap on the festival map, but has proved what community pride and spirit can achieve.
‘Toni, who passed away last year, was exceptional to deal with and had tonnes of get up and go, and with her help we pushed things on and got the festival off the ground,’ Rita said.
‘We had no plan as such so we decided to put up scarecrows and the whole thing just snowballed from there with local sponsorship and 100% support from the local people and of course the local businesses. We saw this festival as a way of keeping our village alive during the quiet months and now going into our fourth year the festival and the village is going from strength to strength.’
In what is a significant expansion this year, a week of events are planned including dances and races and street entertainment.
‘We are delighted and thankful to all our sponsors and our local business who have made the festival possible, and this year we have to thank Cork County Council for a grant of €5,000. With this we have been able to employ professional street entertainers for the first time,’ Rita said.
All funds raised at the festival this year will go towards the construction of a new picnic area in the village.
‘We bought land at Myross Woods and we have started to clear it for a picnic area,’ Rita said. ‘This was an idea that came from Toni who always wanted to have a picnic area in the village and she pushed this from the very start.’
Ruthann Sheahan, who grew up in Leap, and worked in Galway for many years has come home this year to help Rita coordinate the festival.
‘I took some time off work and came home to reconnect with my village,’ Ruthann said. ‘There is an incredible sense of community spirit here in Leap. When you are away and watching from afar the success of the festival and what the community has managed to achieve, it just shows the extraordinary things that can be done when a community gets together. With this passion more ideas have started to come to the fore and we are asking ourselves what else can we do as a village?’
This passion, spirit and drive was recognised with a Cork County Council Mayor award in 2017.
Rita added: ‘This is a very family friendly event and we can see the happy kids and their parents and grandparents and other visitors who come to enjoy our festival. And indeed, without the support of my family it would be very difficult to do all that we have done.
‘This is a great community and a vibrant village, I wouldn’t live anywhere else. Whether it’s the Scarecrow Festival, Leapland at Christmas, the GAA festival, tractor and vintage festival, the Leap Pony Show or turning out defending our post office the people here in Leap are second to none for community spirit.’
This year’s judging takes place on Saturday October 27th with free family festivities underway until the closing ceremony on Monday November 5th with the Witches Dance and the burning of the scarecrow.
‘I’d hate to live anywhere else other than Leap,’ Rita said.