THE sixth ‘Sound Town’ award of 2020 is headed for Killaloe/Ballina, which has picked up the title for its exemplary community spirit, outstanding hospitality, and heart-warming town pride.

Michelle Ryan and her husband Paul lived in Dublin for almost eight years but longed to get a bit closer to their native Limerick.

When the couple began searching for a new home last year, Michelle saw that a house was available in Ballina/Killaloe, the beautiful village she would visit on trips as a child. The Ryan family had a couple of friends in the locality and knew that it had a strong sense of community, not to mention wonderful amenities such as a local GAA club, a gym, outdoor sport facilities, hiking grounds and wonderful local cafés. They were made to feel at home right away – during a night out shortly after the couple arrived, a local choir sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Michelle in the WasherWoman pub. 

Having found themselves with a lot of free time when the Covid-19 restrictions were implemented earlier this year, the couple had an opportunity to get closer to their neighbours. They were ecstatic to see how the community responded during the difficult period. Everyone banded together by making the most of what Killaloe-Ballina has to offer, from hiking on nature trails to swimming in Lough Derg, as well as supporting the many wonderful local businesses in the area.

On one recent occasion, a group of young children put on an outdoor play for locals in the Ryans’ neighbourhood, which was viewed by residents at a social distance. These days, the local farmers market – located on the land bank between the river and the canal and known locally as ‘Between the Waters’ – also functions as something of a community hub. The couple head down almost every Sunday to enjoy some food, the scenery, and to catch up with their neighbours.

“The town is just beautiful, and everyone who lives here takes such pride it,” says Michelle. “You hardly ever see rubbish, or litter or anything. There’s also a lot of support for locally sourced produce; and the farmers market is brilliant. Naturally, you end up running into everyone! Lockdown wasn’t ideal, but it did give us the opportunity to really get to know everyone in the town. They have made us feel so welcome and at home, from the moment we got here.”

Commenting on the announcement of Kinsale winning the Sound Town award, Today FM’s Weekend Breakfast presenter Alison Curtis said:   

“The Sound Town award is all about celebrating community spirit in Irish towns, and this month we get to acknowledge two at the same time! There is nothing more heartening than hearing about a community pulling together during a difficult time, and the people of Killaloe/Ballina made the most of lockdown by embracing life in their town. It’s no wonder Michelle and Paul felt at home so quickly – this is a welcoming community that anyone would be lucky to live in. I am delighted to present our sixth Sound Town award of the year to Killaloe/Ballina.” 

‘Sound Town’ is a Today FM and Cadbury Ireland initiative, which aims to shine a light on what makes Irish communities so unique, by awarding a ‘Sound Town’ status to communities that embody generosity, kindness and general soundness. Throughout the year, monthly winning towns are selected by Today FM’s Weekend Breakfast presenter Alison Curtis and awarded with an official ‘Sound Town’ plaque. Each monthly winning town will be shortlisted for a chance to win €10,000 when the overall 2020 Sound Town winner is announced at the end of the year. 

For further details on Today FM and Cadbury Ireland’s Sound Town initiative and how you can enter your town, tune into ‘Weekend Breakfast with Alison Curtis, every Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to 11 am, or go to www.todayfm.com.

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