WITH just over three weeks until the Giro d’Italia gets underway, towns and cities across Northern Ireland are gearing up to welcome hundreds of thousands of spectators and as part of the celebrations, there is an action packed programme of festivals and events taking place to celebrate the world’s second largest cycle race.
Northern Ireland will host the first three stages of the Giro d’Italia, from May 9 – 11, promising three days of excitement, drama and thrills from Belfast, through the magnificent Causeway Coastal Route and Glens and the historic city of Armagh.
Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) PR Officer Marie-Therese O’Neill said: “The Team Presentation on May 8 in the grounds of Belfast City Hall will be a chance to see your idols up close along with a range of entertainment. The ‘Caravane’ is one spectacle not to miss; this colourful race convoy of branded cars will tour the route before the race arrives, bringing with it a real wave of excitement along the way.
“On top of all this, towns and cities across Northern Ireland are planning a host of events and festivals to make sure visitors are entertained before watching cycling’s elite battle it out as they race along our stunning landscapes and through our historic cities,” Marie-Therese added.
NITB has put together some of the action packed highlights that people visiting Northern Ireland for the Giro d’Italia can look forward to.
Belfast (Stage 1)
The Giro Festival: Get on yer bike! takes places throughout Belfast city centre from May 3 – 11. The eight-day Giro festival will be an action packed celebration of the fact that Belfast was chosen as the starting point for the Giro d’Italia and will include food, fashion, art, architecture, music and performance with cycling and Italian themed fun for all ages across the city.
Highlights of the festival include Get on yer bike! Family cycling at Barnett’s Demense on May 3 & 4 and an exhibition on the bicycle in Irish literature at the Linen Hall Library
The Get on yer bike! Festival hub at Cathedral Gardens and Writers’ Square from May 8 – 10 will be action packed with entertainment, retailers’ stands and crafty workshops. The ever popular Festival of Fools will add a little bit of cycling mayham and a splash of pink from May 3 – 5 and there will be a screening of the classic The Italian Job in Crumlin Road Gaol on May 11.
The Ulster Museum is entering into the festival spirit offering an insight into one of cycling’s greatest innovations and an opportunity to explore this revolution through art with the John Boyd Dunlop bicycle on display from April 28. Italy’s capital Rome is on film at the QFT with screenings of a host of films including Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn. The Ulster Hall has an exciting mix of cycling and Italian themed activities in the Group Space including Italian Cinema Club: Life is Beautiful on May 7 and Cyclists’ Question Time Lunchtime Talk on May 9.
Causeway Coastal Route (Stage 2)
Carrickfergus Benvenuto the Giro at Carrickfergus Town Centre on May 10 will have a host of entertainment for all the family including live music, street entertainers, face painting, balloon modelling and children’s cycling proficiency course.
The Broadway Bandstand in Larne will be turned into an Italian Piazza in the lead up to the Giro d’Italia and will play host to Pop Up Pop In Pink Outdoor Opera on May 2. Carnevale in Larne town centre on May 3 from 2pm - 4pm promises a festival atmosphere with members of the public being encouraged to take part in a fancy dress bicycle competition at Broadway Bandstand. Entertainment includes live music and performers as well as bicycle check-ups.
The Illumination Bike Ride on May 3 at 8pm will go along a special route around the town which will be lit up with Giro d’Italia inspired projections, lighting and installations.
On Race Day on May 10, Larne Market Yard will be turned into Little Italy with a special Italian Market. There will be uni-cycling and BMX displays at Broadway as well as food demonstrations, live music, circus performers and car displays.
The Cushendall Funday from 12pm on May 10 will have bouncy castles on the Green between the RNLI Station and the Boat Club, kids fun cycle events and Giro Brunch at the Lifeboat car park, a Yacht Race in Red Bay and a host of festival entertainment in Cushendall Village from 2pm – 7pm including Irish music, Irish dancing, a food fest and pink street party.
There will be a Ballycastle Funday on May 10 from 11am onwards with a big screen showing the Giro d’Italia at Ballycastle Seafront, family fun with balloon modelling, face painting, walkabout characters a climbing wall, an ABBA Tribute Band and a DJ providing music and live entertainment. That evening there will be live music at The Diamond.
Enjoy A taste of Italy in Ballymoney Town Centre from May 2 – 10 when the town will be decked out in pink with art, music, coupled with some family fun and Italian themed menus in local cafes and restaurants.
The Sunset Port to Port Pedal on May 9 is a family cycling event with an Italian theme. Enjoy a three mile pink fancy dress cycle ride along the stunning North Coast, leaving Harbour Hill in Portstewart at 7pm to West Bay Portrush. The ride out from Harbour Hill Portstewart will take the dedicated Sustrans route to West Bay Portrush where cyclist can break to enjoy an evening of pedal powered festivities including; Trialstar cycle stunt show, live music with ‘Rightly On’, meet and greet with Mario & Luigi, pedal powered smoothie makers, music makers and Spin Art, face painting and much more.
Armagh (Stage 3)
The Ancient Cathedral City of Armagh will host the final stage of the Giro d’Italia Grande Partenza on Sunday May 11. There will be pre-race celebrations taking place across the weekend as the best of Armagh meets Italy in a fusion of music, food and culture with something for all ages and interests.
There will be a Speciality Market on May 10 from 12pm – 7pm on Market Street featuring Armagh goods and produce and Italian themed goods. The market will include a ‘big bake off’ to cook the largest pizza and the largest apple pie. There will be a programme of musical entertainment featuring local musicians, family fun activities and street entertainers. An urban artist will be creating an amazing Giro themed piece of art and there will also be a display of art on the rails and bicycles from the past.
The iconic Mall in Armagh on May 10 from 8pm – 11pm will be pretty in pink as the city hosts a Giro Pre-Race Concert featuring DJ Chill, local band The Hanna Sisters a Pink Tribute Act, singers from NI Opera and finishing with headline act Flash Harry. The evening will end with Armagh’s skyline turning pink as a dazzling fireworks display forms the grand finale.
There will be a host of other activity taking place throughout the weekend including RampRage Extreme Sports on The Mall entertaining the crowds with freestyle BMX expression sessions and the Orchard County Stage 3 Supportive which is a leisurely cycle to follow the Armagh stage routes, 70 miles in total.
This event is supported by NITB and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.
For further details on Giro d’Italia ‘Grande Partenza’ in Northern Ireland click on www.discovernorthernireland.com/giro2014 or use hashtag #Girostart2014.