Alan Bradley catches up on all the news from Meath on the road to Navan, Ontario.
A group of 38 volunteers from Navan have returned from a very successful trip to the namesake town of Navan in Ontario, Canada, where they spent a week promoting the Boyne Valley region.
With months of planning and fundraising behind them on both sides of the Atlantic, the Navan2Navan volunteers departed Dublin Airport on Wednesday 8th August.
A transatlantic flight to Toronto was followed by a short flight to the city of Ottawa, the resting place of Michael O'Meara, the Navan man who named his new home town in the new world after his native Navan, County Meath.
The group's destination was the country village of Navan, Ontario, now a suburb of the city of Ottawa and the home of the largest country fair in Ontario region, called the Navan Fair.
The next morning, the group was given a tour of the village and the surrounding area, which included a visit to the O'Meara homestead, now the home of the Rathwell family, and the site of the original Navan Post Office.
They visited high-tech farms, took part in a walking tour of Navan and visited the famous McWilliams homestead, the third generation Navan, Ontario, family with Irish roots who were the driving force behind the 50-horse hitch pulling a wagon, which is the largest horse hitch ever recorded, putting Navan in the Guinness Book of Records.
"What was memorable and noticeable about this tour was the friendliness and the openness of the many who facilitated this event and how prominent the tricolour was on displayed in many public places and at homesteads we visited, Also how engaging and willing were the local Navan residents as, with great pride, they told the group of their Irish heritage," said organiser Paddy Pyrle.
The official part of the trip began with the opening ceremony of the Navan Fair 2012 during which the Navan2Navan group was presented with a framed scroll to bring back to Navan as a sign of friendship between the two communities. This event concluded with the Navan2Navan musicians entertaining the assembled guest with a host of gigs and reels.
Throughout the fair, members of the group were busy manning their Tourism Ireland Boyne Valley trade stand; over the three days, they greeted thousands of Canadian citizens.
They also made many media appearances on both national and local radio and television with their message that the Boyne Valley region is open for business.
On Saturday 11th August, the group members were guests of honour in the annual tradition fair street parade through the streets of. That afternoon, they were treated to a barbecue, hosted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the home of the Sunnydale family, where bagpipes met fiddles and banjos for an afternoon of song and dance.
"The good news is that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police pipe bands, of which there are three, are now in talks with the Navan2Navan group for a return visit to Navan in Ireland in August 2013 as part of the Great Gathering Celebration in Ireland," said Mr Pryle.
A team from the Navan2Navan crew also took on the local GAA Glub Ottawa Gaels for a challenge match at the local Navan school.
One of the main events of the week was the production put on by the Navan2Navan group for the Navan Fair before an audience of 500. It included the re-enactment of the story of Finn McCool.
During their visit, the crew also travelled to a region in Ontario called the Gaeltacht, which is the only official recognised Irish Gaeltacht outside the island of Ireland.
That evening, there was a meet and greet session with local tour operators at the Irish embassy in Ottawa city.
"As a result of this meet and greet session, one Ottawa tour operator has agreed to send their next tour to Ireland as early as next week to Navan, County Meath, to sample our cuisine and what the Boyne valley region has to offer in the way of history and tourism attractions.
"Many more have promised to follow this lead," said Mr Pyrle.
The Navan2Navan group has thanked all those who made this trip possible.