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Spark has gone - town's Electric Picnic blackout

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Stradbally is usually full of life this weekend, but Covid-19 has seen that put off for at least a year

Stradbally is usually full of life this weekend, but Covid-19 has seen that put off for at least a year

SPORTSFILE

Stradbally is usually full of life this weekend, but Covid-19 has seen that put off for at least a year

Laois locals and business owners have told of the damage that the cancellation of Electric Picnic has done to their community - and the craic this weekend.

Usually buzzing with festival-goers flocking through the main gates, the Stradbally fields are empty this weekend.

Festival Republic announced in May that the event would not be going ahead due to the pandemic.

The owner of Stradbally Fayre cafe, Chris Maguire (42), runs a food trailer inside the festival every summer - with hordes of festival-goers splashing out €5 on his breakfast baps.

Chris said the festival's absence this year is a "big loss".

"We absolutely miss it this year, even the whole buzz of it. We would be going around the clock for nearly 24 hours.

"It would be an absolutely crazy weekend," he said.

"We would normally have a trailer beside the main stage and one at the Charlie Chaplin campsite, and would do a few hundred breakfasts, lunch and dinners.

"And then for cleaning companies and security companies - that kind of thing.

"We're the closest commercial business to the main gates.

"Normally at this stage we would have a full house, outside would be absolutely packed as well.

"Both sides of the streets - up and down - would be full with people streaming up."

He said although the loss of events like Electric Picnic is hard on family businesses like his own, Laois residents have been "absolutely savage" at offering support.

Survive

"They really are supporting their local businesses. They want you to survive, they want their cafes around the village and in their town."

Local Bobby Miller (47) and his friend Brendan Hennessy were the first two festival goers let through the gates when Electric Picnic debuted in 2004.

He enthusiastically recalls how they followed a security guard "like a Pied Piper" from the main gates into the festival grounds, brimming with excitement and curiosity over what the then one-day event would bring.

"We were the first to walk through the gates, the first-ever 'Electric Picnickers' you could say.

"I haven't looked back since," he said.

Bobby, a tillage farmer, says he was "shockingly disappointed" when he heard the event was off as it is usually his best chance to enjoy time away from work.

"I never miss it. I live right beside it," he said.

"This year I was really looking forward to just going back into the atmosphere.

"The biggest selling point is the relaxed atmosphere of the place because you just leave your troubles behind."

The highlight of Electric Picnic, Bobby said, was seeing the Frank and Walters play each year.

"You would always find me in the Jerry Fish stage to see Frank and Walters."

As disappointed as he is over the festival being cancelled, Bobby said he still planned to mark the occasion with some friends this weekend.

"We will mark the occasion, obviously not too many of us, but a few us who were going to Electric Picnic will be meeting up at a neighbour's house.

"The weather is thankfully real picnic weather, a mixture of sun and showers, so we will spend time in the garden."