As Christmas rushes in, it’s nice to take some time to soak up the festive atmosphere.

While the cities have their Christmas markets, it’s important to remember events taking place in smaller towns and villages. Community involvement is often the key to success at these smaller events.

The long-running market at Roscrea in Co Tipperary is one such example. Taking place over the weekend of 10 to 11 December, “A Taste of Roscrea” is home to an array of Christmas stalls and activities the whole family can enjoy.

Councillor Michael Smith, one of the founders of the event, tells Irish Country Living how the idea for a fair in Roscrea came about.

Humble beginnings

“Ten years ago, the small committee was established, and I suppose the purpose of that was to see how we could run a festival within the town to showcase what we have.”

He explains that one of the most important aims of the fair is to give a platform to small, local entrepreneurs.

The Black Mills and round tower, location of this year's 'A Taste of Roscrea' fair.

“We have one person who is with us for the last nine years and every year he works in his garage putting together a woodcraft product that he showcases. That’s what it’s about – it’s giving those who don’t have the opportunity to be in a shop, and who are entrepreneurs, the chance to showcase their product. It has developed and grown hugely over the last number of years.”

Location, location, location

One of the standout features of “A Taste of Roscrea” is its setting. The buildings that are used for the fair have historical significance, Michael explains, so they require special care and planning.

“From the very start, we built up a very close relationship with the Office of Public Works … In Roscrea we have Roscrea Castle and Damer grounds and the Black Mills, and each one of these would be the responsibility of the OPW.

“These are historical buildings and there’s a huge amount of work that has to go in to making sure that everybody is catered for and looked after and that’s what we try and do.”

What’s on offer

For this year’s fair, there will be over 30 stallholders in the Black Mills, selling a wide array of Christmas gifts, food and other locally-made products. In terms of the range of goods on offer, Michael explains that no two stalls will be the same.

“We try to give everybody the best opportunity so there’ll be a uniqueness and there won’t be any duplication in relation to the gifts. So you have someone who might be selling crafts, and someone else selling cosmetics, perfumes, homemade buns, cards, bread etc … It gives everyone a fighting chance.”

Inside 'A Taste of Roscrea' fair, where there will be over 30 stalls this year.

This is a family-friendly event and, seeing as it’s Christmas, it wouldn’t be complete without some festive fun for the kids. Among the activities on offer, such as face painting and Santa’s train, Santa Claus himself will also visit.

There will also be a performance from Theresa Larkin’s School of Music and the Transition Year Students Enterprise Award Ceremony will also be incorporated, which includes students from Roscrea, Templemore and Thurles.

Continued success

For Michael, the continued success of “A Taste of Roscrea” boils down to having close relationships with community organisations, businesses and the local people.

“We have a very strong working relationship with the Roscrea Chamber of Commerce, and Tipperary County Council. I think forging that partnership and that relationship between each one of these agencies has been key to the success of our festival.

“I think it is generally accepted by people within the town that this is a huge event and that it marks the start of Christmas for everybody.

“We work very closely with the businesses. What we’re trying to impress upon people is the importance of shopping local … It’s a lovely family occasion. It starts off Christmas and it really sets the scene.”

Do you know where your local Christmas market is? Get out and shop local this festive season. There are dozens of Christmas markets nationwide and many are run in conjunction with the local county council or community groups.

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