Letterkenny's Halloween bash fails to frighten Derry’s mayor
Donegal's largest town has announced its plans to hold rival Halloween celebrations, declaring ‘ghost wars’ on Londonderry in an effort to drum up trade.
The Chamber of Commerce in Letterkenny said it wants to stem the flow of people from the county into Derry for what is the largest Halloween event in these isles.
The festivities will be the first of the kind in the town, and form part of a wider campaign to keep Donegal shoppers in the county instead of crossing the border in search of bargains.
The chamber said it was “enticing people to stay in Letterkenny rather than go to Derry for Halloween”.
The two centres have long been rivals for cross-border consumer spending, with the flow of shoppers changing direction according to the exchange rate as well as prices.
The pound is currently strong against the euro, but prices are higher across the board in the Republic, meaning it is still more attractive for people to travel to Derry to shop and socialise.
Derry Mayor Kevin Campbell is unfazed by the Halloween war declaration.
He said the organisers of the five-day Halloween festival in the city — one of the largest in Europe — were very confident of attracting the projected numbers.
He said: “Letterkenny are entitled to host their own celebration and we would wish them all the best.
“Good luck to them. The more festivals in the North West the better.
“We have a programme packed full of events and we expect 30,000 coming into the city.
“Halloween in Derry is an international event, it attracts people from all over the world who come to dress up and take part, and I myself will be dressing up as well.
“This year’s celebrations have stepped up a gear and we have a series of major new events spread over several days.”
Letterkenny has also promised that the town centre will be thronged with music, entertainment, face painting and trick or treating on October 31.
The town’s Chamber said they were launching the festive campaign at an “apt time” as the sterling rate against the euro stood at around £0.80p to €1, with many local businesses offering favourable rates on sterling to northern shoppers.
Among the events organised are trick or treat hunts, fancy dress competitions and interactive story telling, and an online best pumpkin competition.
Letterkenny Chamber chief executive Toni Forrester said: “I think Letterkenny is a big enough place to bring people in from the rest of the county for a bit more of a Halloween extravaganza. We want to start small and build it up over the years.
“We want to make Letterkenny the place to be this Halloween, we have organised lots of activities for great family fun and we hope that this will be the start of Halloween festivals in Letterkenny.”
She added however that for the opening year, the Halloween celebrations will be limited to during the day, which will still give those who want to travel on to Derry for the fireworks finale an opportunity to do so.
John Watson, chamber president, added: “We want people to rediscover Letterkenny.
“This town is the shopping centre of Donegal and with more involvement from the community we can build on this year after year.
“We'd love to see as many families and young people as possible come to Main Street and the other shopping areas.”
The Letterkenny celebrations will be centred around Market Square from 1pm to 5pm.