Vintners descend on Wexford for 43rd annual conference
Hundreds of publicans from around the country descended on Wexford recently to attend the 43rd Vintners Federation of Ireland annual conference.
Crowds poured through the doors of Clayton Whites Hotel for the three day event, which invited publicans to discuss issues in the industry as well as enjoy the many sights that Wexford has to offer. The conference officially kicked off with a civic welcome in the National Opera House, at which Wexford Mayor Ger Carthy welcomed all of the visitors to the county.
In the days that followed, guests were whisked around the south of the county to visit landmarks such as Tintern Abbey and Hook Head. A tour of the National Opera House proved to be particularly popular, as did a seafood lunch at Mary Barry's. A craft beer trail allowed visitors to get a taste of some of Wexford's home brews.
'We didn't get one negative reaction,' said John Gaynor, who was the main organiser of the social events. 'The tourists were absolutely delighted with everything. They were so happy with the reception they received.'
The two golf contests proved to be a big hit with many of the visitors. In the Andy Byrne Golf Competition, Donegal man Martin Gibbons was crowned overall winner while Wexford's own Jim McGee took home the top prize in the Joe O'Donnell contest.
However, it was the long-awaited gala dinner that proved to be one of the highlights of the event as 392 people came out in their finery for a night of food and entertainment. The guests gathered for drinks in the foyer of Clayton Whites Hotel and were serenaded by the Wexford Male Voice Choir as they went to take their seats.
'Everyone was blown away by the Male Voice Choir,' said John. 'They serenaded us from the balcony until 9.15 p.m. The guests couldn't believe it.'
The good vibes were mirrored at the VFI annual general meeting as it was revealed that Irish pubs will employ 17,000 additional seasonal staff this summer. The increase is solely attributed to the expected rise in overseas and domestic tourism this summer with CSO figures outlining a 16 per cent rise in visitor numbers for the first three months of 2016. The news was welcomed by VFI Wexford County Chairman Michael Wallace who pointed out that the drinks industry currently employs 2,864 people in Wexford alone.
'The fact of the matter is our industry creates jobs in areas where there is not much else in terms of employment,' he added.
'The pub is the mainstay of many local communities across this country and when you see Post Offices, Tourist Offices and Garda Stations closing, our responsibility to our communities takes on even greater importance as people will rely upon us for essential services.'