THE larger-than-life presence of Koroit legend Frank 'Tuddy' Bowman was sorely missed on the opening of the 2021 Koroit Irish Festival.
The opening night concert on Friday night paid tribute to the great man, who tragically passed away earlier this year, aged 75.
Festival president Adele MacDonald said the festival was off to a flying start.
"It's been huge for the town itself, I've noticed from early Thursday onwards there's been extra people in town," she said.
"Friday was huge with people everywhere collecting their tickets and Friday night was a packed house. It was a really nice night."
There was a performance by artist of the year Bhan Tre, a tribute to Irish-Australian Women and a spotlight on the Melbourne Rose of Tralee, featuring former winner Claire Lynch and Irish-Australian of the year Chris Moloughney.
"There were tributes to Tuddy Bowman and Mary Fiorini-Lowell, a couple of local legends.
"It was the perfect start to a community-focused weekend."
An interview with festival ambassador Marie Conheady was broadcast during the concert.
"It's a great thing to be asked to be the ambassador, it's a great honour," she said.
"Last year we missed the festival terrible when we didn't have it. I look forward to it and a lot of other people do too.
"My grandparent's parents came from Ireland and of course we've been to Ireland and loved the people there.
"The Irish people they love the Australians and the Australians loved them."
She said Tuddy would be sorely missed.
"He loved the Irish festival and we think of our dear old friend Tuddy," she said.
"I believe the last Sunday night that he was dancing on Mickey Bourke's table enjoying life to the fullest.
"We miss him and we're going to miss him terrible this year.
"I wish everyone a happy Irish festival, they do a wonderful job, we don't appreciate them as well as we should because there's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes."
The festival's inaugural Book Club event at Noodledoof was a roaring success, with the brewery full of lively chatter discussing Milkman by Anna Burns.
From 10am Saturday Commercial Road will come alive with the street procession, live music on five indoor and outdoor stages, Australian Danny Boy Championships, Irish Dancing, spud picking and peeling championships, market stalls and more.
Sunday's event features the Koroit Irish Festival Mass, Koroit Gaelic Games Carnival, traditional Irish, Big Brekkie and the Last Laugh.
The festival is a ticketed sold-out event.
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