Ulster star Ruan Pienaar and mascot Sparky teamed up to launch the eighth annual Wooden Spoon International Tag Rugby Festival for people with learning disabilities, which will be held at Ravenhill this coming Saturday.
Over 400 players from 26 schools and clubs around the UK and Ireland will be in attendance, making it the largest event of its type to be held in Ireland.
The festival will run from 10am to 5pm and spectators will be entertained throughout the day with live music and dancing, face painters and circus acts.
The RBS 6 Nations trophy, won by Ireland in March, will be at Ravenhill all day for fans to pose with for photos, adding to what will be a special occasion.
Excitement is building amongst the local schools and clubs who are participating in the event with all of their training sessions now firmly focused on their preparation for the festival.
There are 13 teams from Ulster clubs and schools attending – Ballymena Bears, Cedar Lodge (Belfast), Clare Hares (Ballyclare), Coleraine Chargers, Errigle Eagles (Letterkenny), Glenveagh School (Belfast), Harberton Seahorses (Belfast), Killard Cougars (Donaghadee), Newforge Taggers (Belfast), Now Project (Belfast), Portadown Panthers, Seaside Sharkies (Donaghadee) and Stevenson Sharks (Dungannon).
The festival represents another significant investment from children’s charity Wooden Spoon, which has contributed over £600,000 to projects that have benefited disadvantaged or disabled children in Ulster.
The Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure (DCAL), Belfast City Council and a number of local businesses have also given their backing to the event.
Willie John McBride, the legendary former Ireland and British & Irish Lions captain and Chairman of Wooden Spoon, commented: “Tag rugby is the type of thing we want to support because it’s giving kids a lot of fun and the chance to meet others. It will be terrific for them to play at Ravenhill.”
Councillor Gareth McKee, Chairman of the Belfast City Council’s Parks and Leisure Committee, commented: “The Council is delighted to be backing this very worthy event, through our ‘Support For Sport’ scheme.
“Sport has so many positive elements, and allowing young people to develop their skills in a spirit of friendly competition is an ethos which we fully endorse.”
Gary Donald, Chairman of Ballymena Bears, added: “We are all really looking forward to the event at Ravenhill which will provide a fantastic opportunity for all our players to take part in a truly international festival of tag rugby. It certainly has captured the imagination of our players and we hope it will inspire others to get involved.”
Admission to the ground for the festival is free of charge and Ulster Rugby is urging fans to go along to support the players and add to the atmosphere.
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