In 1977, Ballyshannon played host to a Fleadh Cheoil (Music Festival) which attracted a large number of musicians and followers of music to the town for a weekend of music, song and dance. The following year, 1978, it was decided to organise a festival of Irish Folk and Traditional Music –Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival was born.
In its early years, the Ballyshannon Festival ran alongside those giant festivals in Lisdoonvarna and Ballisodare, unfortunately, many of these great festivals no longer exist, many having succumbed to financial difficulties. Ballyshannon, went on from strength to strength, growing each year in terms of revenue, atmosphere, educational aspects and facilities. The success of the festival, many felt, was attributed to it being organised on a non-commercial basis. Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival continued in the ‘tent’ with many successful years and all the leading names in the Irish Trad and Folk scene stepping up to the famous microphone in the Market Yard, names like Altan, Christy Moore, De Danann, Maura O’Connell, Dolores Keane, Sharon Shannon, the Black sisters Mary and Frances to name a few.