Extended Winterval to go ahead despite Covid-19
THE Winterval team have been busy as elves working hard behind the scenes to reimagine Ireland’s favourite Christmas festival, allowing it to return for an extended period to Waterford city despite Covid-19.
Presenting the reimagined plans to the Metropolitan meeting of Waterford City and County Council, Winterval Festival Director, Tommie Ryan explained that although some firm favourite attractions can’t go ahead due to social distancing, there are plenty of new and exciting offerings to look forward to.
Tommie told the councillors that the last eight years Waterford has established itself as Ireland’s Christmas Capital thanks to Winterval. During a difficult year, organisers want to deliver a programme that is safe, while also holding onto Winterval’s hard earned reputation.
“Obviously this year is not like any other year, so we’ve had to make some important changes in relation to Covid-19. Unfortunately, no mass gathering style events can be held, such as Santa’s arrival, Winterval on Ice and the Winterval Illuminates slide show. These are events that simply can’t happen under social distancing.
“A small market will replace the normal festival market in the Arundel Square area. This will focus on quick turnaround food to avoid queuing. Social distancing and all relevant Covid-19 regulations will be implemented by all providers and operators this year.”
“Santa will be shielded from guests with the aid of a beautiful snow globe, so you will still be able to get a perfect family photo”
The festival will be focused in the city centre area, from the Quay through John Roberts Square, Arundel Square and down to the Apple Market. The dates and hours of operation will also be extended to spread out crowds.
“Winterval will begin earlier this year on November 13 and will operate five days a week from Wednesday to Sunday,” said Tommie, who joked that Christmas seems to come earlier every year.
Ultimately, the aim is to host high quality and outdoor family friendly attractions that are Covid-19 compliant. Some of the new additions include a large scale Christmas themed reindeer sleigh ride for the Apple Market and a new hot air balloon ride.
“One of the key wins for Winterval is Santa will return to Arundel Square in a purpose built marquee. This will be designed from the very beginning to allow for social distancing and safety as the number one priority,” Tommie said. There will be compulsory hand washing on entry, temperature checks, contact tracing and face masks must be worn and only can be removed for the purpose of a photo. One family at a time will be admitted per section and each group will be limited to six, with a maximum of two adults.
“Santa will be shielded away from guests with the aid of a beautiful snow globe, so you will still be able to get a perfect family photo. Santa’s elves and all the event staff will wear facemasks at all time… There will be a one-way system in operation and there won’t be any re-entry upon exit,” he said. “We are hoping by making these changes that we can make it a safe and enjoyable event for everyone attending.”
Winterval are also theming up with Waterford City and County Council, Purple Flag, Waterford Chamber of Commerce and Waterford Business Group to bring Windows Winterval to the festival.
“This is a way to encourage businesses, cafes and restaurants to get involved in the Christmas spirit, to light up their windows and become part of Winterval,” he said.
With Winterval leading the way, a number of dormant buildings will be decorated, with one window decorated by Spraoi. Another will host a circus exhibition and one will have a classic Christmas theme. There will be prizes for the best dressed premises and a discount with Morris’ Builders Providers if they take part.
Winterval are also working with artist in resident for Garter Lane and Broken Crow Theatre Company, Deirdre Dwyer who is creating ‘The Snow Queen’. Originally it was intended to be an onstage production, but it has been reimagined into an audio play which will be released twice weekly in the run up to Christmas.
Family favourites including the Waterford Eye, vintage ferris wheel, vintage carousel, star flyer, helter skelter, Garter Lane Christmas Craft Fair, the Theatre Royal Christmas Programme, the Rotary Club memorial Christmas Tree, the nativity crib, Santa’s giant postbox and helicopter flights over Winterval will make a welcome return. It is hoped the Winterval Express Train can also make a comeback, along with the addition of a drive in Christmas themed circus.
complement the attractions Winterval is investing in new Christmas lighting for John Roberts Square, Barronstrand Street, Broad Street and Arundel Square. Up lighting and projections are being looked at for the Quay and a city centre building. The Clock Tower will also be lit up in a festive colour.
In turn, each of the councillors welcomed the return of Winterval and posed questions about how operators will adhere to Covid protocols.