Contingent from Ballina, Ireland on four-day whirlwind visit to sister city Pittsfield


Photo Gallery | Pittsfield welcomes Ballina delegation

Video Andy Kelly and John Culpo welcome visitors from Ballina Ireland to Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD — Sheila Moffatt feels right at home visiting Pittsfield.

The Irish step dancing instructor from Ballina, Ireland, on Monday wrapped up a four-day whirlwind tour of the area. It was her third visit in four years, further cementing a strong bond with the local Irish community.

"It was nice to stay with Pat and Marie Gormalley," she said. "They are like an extra set of grandparents to my children."

Moffatt, accompanied by her son Cian Lavelle, 9, and daughter Lisa Lavelle, 13 — both Irish step dancing champions — were formally greeted by community leaders during a ceremony at City Hall. The visit was the latest sister city exchange between the two municipalities that dates back nearly 20 years.

The Pittsfield Sister City Commission and Irish Sister City Committee organized the visit that began on Friday.

The Irish delegation arrived just in time to March in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Albany, N.Y., on Saturday, followed by the Irish-American Club's annual St. Patrick's Day dinner-dance at the Pittsfield Elks Club. On Sunday, Moffatt taught for three hours at Terpsichore Dance Center on North Street.

The Lavelles danced their way into the hearts of the city, performing at City Hall and during the dinner dance. Lisa was thrilled with the reception she and her brother received at the Elks Club.

"They were cheering and clapping," she said. "It was really exciting."

Ballina District Councilor Michael Loftus, also part of the contingent, applauded the hospitality bestowed on the travelers, telling Mayor Linda Tyer and City Council President Peter Marchetti that Ballina councilors value the sister city relationship, often discussing the bond during council meetings. One of those bonds is going through the painstaking process of passing new municipal budgets.

"I know you have your budgets soon," Loftus said. "We had budgets last month, it wasn't pleasant."

No sister city visit would be complete without an exchange of gifts to commemorate the occasion. Tyer and Marchetti, who also heads up the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade Committee, presented Loftus with several copies of this year's hot-off-the-press parade posters representing this year's theme, "Music and Dance Through the Years."

"The important connection between our cities is culture, music and dance," Tyer said.

The mayor strongly suggested the a Ballina delegation's next return trip include marching in Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade.

"Boston is the heart and soul of the Irish in Massachusetts," she said.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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