Boorowa is world renowned for its fine Merino wool. Creating a Wool Week event in the late 1990’s seemed like a great way to showcase the beautiful wool from the region. A whole week was dedicated to this event with wool shows, wool workshops, shearing displays and much more all around the town.
Even then, 21 years ago, the sheep led the street parade on a merry dance to the Showground with a colourful street parade meandering along behind. The Running of the Sheep reminds everyone of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. That’s No Bull. Not quite as dangerous but certainly as visually exciting with the four wheel motor bike in full throttle and the sheep dogs leaping on and off the sheep’s back.
After a couple of years it was decided that to make it a truly spectacular event the community would condense it to a one day festival when the street would be closed to traffic. This gave it more impact with all festivities located up and down the main street.
Thereby was born the Woolfest. The event just had a three month lead in and 1000 visitors. Our first star performer was Armondo of Sweet Charity fame followed by a wool fashion parade by Simona. We linked the event to Floriade in Canberra to give visitors an alternative activity.
In the year 2000 Boorowa introduced the Irish component based on the fact that the town has strong Irish connections and is twinned with Clonoulty in Tipperary Ireland. The Irish Woolfest took its first bow.
In the 19th Century a Catholic nun was asked, “Have you been to Ireland?” “No”, she replied. “But I have been to Burrowa.” Boorowa’s Irish connection dates back to the 1820’s when cousins Roger Corcoran and Ned Ryan arrived in the area on ‘Ticket of Leave’. They had been sentenced to transportation to New South Wales from Clonoulty in Tipperary. Their crime was participation in the destruction of a hospital that a garrison of English troops planned to occupy. They were later granted ‘Ticket of Freedom’ and played prominent roles in the settlement and growth of the area.
Numbers of visitors increased annually by about 2000 until we currently have about 15,000 visitors attending the Irish Woolfest which is well known for its outstanding and professional performers including The Australian Youth Choir, John MacNally, Cat and Fiddle, The Tullys, Saoirse, The Irish Drovers and Enchanted Ireland with Annalisa Kerrigan and Tim Manning an outstanding Irish Dancer. The feature event remains “The Running of the Sheep” which keeps our visitors enthralled.