The 33rd annual Listowel Paddyfest kicked off in a new way this year, mixing new events with a little tradition.Starting at 6 p.m. sharp on March 11, town crier Mark TarBush declared the official opening of North America's largest Irish festival. This year was a departure for the kick-off, chair Bill Watson said, as the Kin Family wanted to see more involvement in the downtown core. "We felt that doing the opening kick-off early in the afternoon couldn't get a lot of community involvement," Watson said. "A lot of people wanted to come out to get Paddyfest off on the right foot."Watson said the downtown merchants jumped on board with the idea, staying open until 9 p.m. and offering special deals and draws. There was also live entertainment featured at The Anchor Pub, and a free movie screening at Capitol Cinema. Not to mention plenty of kissing of the blarney stone by Paddyfest ambassador Kelsey Dewar, Kinsmen and Kinettes, and of course Mr. Paddy. Paddyfest represents more than just a time of festivities and fellowship, Watson said, as many people look forward to it as the light at the end of winter. "I think everyone looks forward to Paddyfest for the calendar turn and the days getting longer," Watson said. Also by keeping the community involved, Watson said it promotes economic growth, such as the announcement made at Listowel Cold Storage earlier that morning."With different community events like this, it's bringing industries to town and making the community grow, which creates more jobs," he said. The events for Paddyfest continue until March 22, when the Paddyfest lottery and Shamrock Sharing draws will be held. For a full list of events, visit the website at www.paddyfest.ca.
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