The Winterval Christmas Festival will officially open in Waterford City this evening (Friday 18 November) with the commencement of the country's first Christmas Parade at 5:15 pm.
Santa Claus is the grand marshal and will arrive in the city centre at 5.15 pm in a gigantic bauble, having parked up his sleigh for the duration of this stay in Waterford, until 23 December. The parade will commence from The Clock Tower on Waterford's quayside and travel up Barronstrand Street into John Robert's Square, where upon reaching the main stage Santa and his band of elves will join the Mayor of Waterford, Councillor John O'Leary, in officially lighting up the festive season in Waterford as they switch on the lights at 6pm.
The festival organisers are expecting 600,000 people to enjoy the Winterval Festival between now and Christmas Eve, delivering an economic contribution of €30 million.
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Festival directors John Grubb and Trevor Darmody said, "Winterval is a festival which has broken all records and apart from COVID impacted years it has grown exponentially each year. This year being the 10th anniversary of the festival there is an extra special programme of events on offer with a different one-off special event taking place each weekend in addition to the ongoing festival programme. For that reason, coupled with the delight of the freedom to enjoy Christmas once again, ticket sales are thriving and anticipation for the festival is high.
"There are six weeks of Winterval and we are expecting 100,000 festivalgoers for each of those weekends, we have 40 events on offer with 25 of those on offer for free, so there is plenty to see and do and room for crowds to enjoy the expanse of the festival and the city.
"The expected economic boost from a breakdown of day trippers from outside of Waterford and from domestic overnight visitors would offer an economic boost to the City in the region of €30 million. The festival also created over 500 seasonal jobs directly plus multiple indirect jobs and we have hundreds of volunteers and community groups involved too.
"This is all a huge economic boost to the city and is essential for what is typically an 'off-season' tourism time of the year and to support businesses that were greatly impacted during pandemic lockdowns."
Winterval Festival highlights include a gigantic and magical talking postbox with an elf post-collection show each weekend, magic mirrors and a host of free children's workshops, a free shadow puppet show, the magic lights of GLOW in New Street Gardens, the Winterval Illuminates light show on offer every half hour, the ice rink on the city's quayside, the vintage Ferris wheel at Arundel Square, a vintage carousel, the Port of Waterford Eye, the Winterval Mini Express train, a virtual ride in Santa's sleigh, a wizard and dragon interactive exhibition, Santa Paws for dogs, and the Gerbola Circus will be hosting a festive circus show in their heated big top tent each weekend.
Santa takes centre stage at the festival in the heart of the city at Santa's Central Station. There will be live music on stage each weekend in Waterford's cultural quarter featuring a mix of community and professional acts serving as a backdrop to the Winterval Christmas market set out in a series of wooden chalets through the spine of the city into the cultural quarter.
Waterford's heritage takes a prime position. Déise Medieval will host a traditional Viking settlement. A Winterval by night programme will be offered at The Reg alongside their World Cup fan zone, and there will be Christmas concerts at the cathedral and music at Waterford Crystal.
10th birthday one-off special events include Waterford's newest comic convention, a blue lights parade, a Jingle Bells cycling event, a sparkling tractor parade, and BuskAid, which will take place on 22 December to raise funds for Tinteán Housing, which is the Winterval Festival dedicated charity for 2022.
The Winterval festival is supported by Waterford City and County Council. The full Winterval Festival programme is available to view and book online at Winterval.ie.