It will be a relatively brief flash – just 15 minutes of the bright red and deep green of County Mayo projected onto the surging curtain of water at Niagara Falls – but it has Ireland buzzing.
From 10 to 10:15 p.m. May 2, the falls will be illuminated in the colors of County Mayo, which are seen on every farmhouse, utility pole, clothesline, shop front and street corner in the large, scenic western county when the county’s GAA football teams are playing.
“They’ve gone nuts about it in Ireland,” said Padraic Walsh, a native of Kiltimagh, Mayo, who moved to Buffalo six years ago and serves as chair of the Irish Network Buffalo and club secretary with the Buffalo Fenians GAA club.
The falls will be illuminated for Mayo on the first ever Mayo Day, which organizers in the Mayo County Council suggested be marked around the world, where some 9.3 million people claim Mayo roots.
Spearheading the local event is Mayo Day “has been a big hit so far,” said Walsh, a second-year law student at the University at Buffalo. It’s being held on “the first Saturday in May-o,” he said, laughing.
Kearns said in a statement, “What better way to celebrate than by turning one of the natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls, to the county colors of our new international partner.”
This week, Walsh received a letter from Irish Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, expressing his delight with the recognition. “I greatly look forward to seeing the iconic Niagara Falls turn green and red on 2nd May; it is a wonderful event which will do much to highlight the enduring interpersonal links between North America and Ireland over many centuries,” Kenny wrote. “It will of course pay particular tribute to the contribution of so may people from my own home county of Mayo to the U.S. and to Canada.” Kenny was born near Castlebar.
Walsh worked with Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, D-Buffalo, who has roots in Westport, County Mayo, to set up Mayo Day here and to strengthen ties between the Irish Network Buffalo and the Mayo County Council’s Enterprise and Investment Unit.
“We’re trying to put Buffalo back on the international stage and connect Niagara Falls and Buffalo. People who are coming on vacation and want to say Niagara Falls should stop in Buffalo, too,” said Walsh.
Stories have appeared in New York City’s Irish Echo, in Ireland’s Mayo Advertiser and Mayo News newspaper, and on many web sites designed for the Irish community in Britain. Walsh taped a radio interview for Midwest Radio and was planing to do a video in Buffalo and Niagara Falls to be aired on Irish TV.
Meanwhile, Walsh is looking forward to getting together with other people from Mayo and with Mayo roots at the falls at 10 p.m. May 2. For more details, email him at email@example.com.