A Guide to Festivals in Ireland
Wexford Opera Festival, October 15 - November 1
Wexford, in the 'sunny south east' of the country (well, it's sunny there by Irish standards at least...) is one of the most popular counties with tourists and this opera festival is a popular attraction. Last year saw this festival take place in a new opera house, which by all accounts has been a tremendous success. Ireland's first custom-built Opera House, it is over four times larger than the previous Theatre Royal. Comprising a main auditorium, seating 769 people for opera performances. This year's program has already been announced: Il Cappello di Paglia di Firenze by Nino Rota (who scored the Godfather trilogy), The Ghosts of Versailles by John Corigliano, and Donizetti's Maria Padilla.
Cork Jazz Festival October 23-26
Although 'jazz' mightn't be synonymous with 'Ireland', this is one of Ireland's best established music festivals, first taking place in 1978. Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland after Dublin, and its inhabitants tend to be an extremely proud of their home - with considerably justification. Corkonians resent snooty Dubliners who think of their city as being a provincial backwater- and this jazz festival, one of the city's best known tourist draws, is proof of why they are right.
Puckfair Killorglin August 10-12
The idea is strange, yet simple: every year, a group of people from Killorgin, a town in County Kerry, go to the nearby mountains, the MacGillycuddy's Reeks, to capture a wild goat. The captured goat is then crowned "Kind Puck" in the town by the Queen of the Fair, a local schoolgirl. Then the party begins - for three days, pubs are permitted to say open till 3 am, and it is estimated that around 100,000 people visit the town over the three days. The goat is kept in a cage in the town, and is later released back into the wild.
There are also hours of free family entertainment including parades, fireworks, cultured street entertainment as well as day and night concerts, as well as a cattle fair and a horse fair. This is certainly one of the more unusual festivals in Ireland, but it's also the oldest. No one is really sure how this fair started, although there are a number of different theories. There are several versions of the origins of King Puck. One labels Puck a Paul Revere of sorts. The story involves English leader Oliver Cromwell and his "Roundheads," while pillaging the Irish countryside, frightened a herd of goats, one broke away and entered the town of Killorglin looking exhausted, which warned the townsfolk that danger was on its way.
The other story claims that the annual Killorglin fair had been a toll fair (this is back in the early 1800s), but then it was ruled illegal to levy tolls at cattle, sheep or horse fairs. - but this did not include goats, and on August 10, 1808, with the help of a barrister named Daniel O'Connell, a fair was held in Killorglin and a goat was paraded on stage to prove that it was indeed a legal goat fair. - so the town got a fair and a king.