Killorglin’s Puck Fair, which runs annually from August 10-12, is undeniably one of the quirkiest festivals in the world, and it is Ireland’s original and oldest ‘Gathering Festival.’
The main celebration surrounds the crowning of a wild mountain goat as a King in honour of a tradition and heritage that is purported to be ancient, but can only officially be traced back as far back as 1603, when King James I issued a charter granting legal status to the existing fair in Killorglin.
The three days of festivities begin on what is known as ‘Gathering Day’, when the main coronation ceremony takes place. The "Queen of Puck", who is always a young school girl from one of the local primary schools, crowns the goat "King Puck". The honour this year has gone to local schoolgirl Ciara O’ Brien.
The Queen and King Puck will then parade through the town, granting residents and visitors alike the ‘Freedom of the Town’ for the duration of the festival and this commences three days of entertainment, music, pageantry and traditions.
The parade is set to be the biggest and best yet with more floats and colourful participants guaranteed to entertain the thousands expected to line the streets on the day, and a new route will ensure spectators have a better viewing area. The parade will now begin at the Bridge, go through Lower Bridge Street, The Square, Upper Bridge Street and onto Iveragh Road.
Another highlight of ‘Gathering Day’ is the Horse Fair, which is the oldest and longest continually running horse fair in the country. Buying and selling horses, ponies, donkeys & equipment starts very early in the morning, and continues throughout the opening day of Puck Fair.
The second day, ‘Fair Day’, sees the street markets and craft fairs go into full swing. You’ll find everything you could possible hope for among the tented stands, from horse tack to fashion, local crafts and tasty produce. An independently run Cattle Fair, which is not organised by Puck Fair Organising Committee, also takes place on this day from early morning in Langford Street.
The Closing Parade is the main highlight of final day, known as ‘The Scattering’, which leads the goat back to his mountain home. The parade will begin at Iveragh Road, and go through Upper Bridge Street, The Square, Lower Bridge Street, ending at The Bridge.
The celebrations will close with a breath-taking fireworks display, which gets bigger and better every year.
There’s lots more to see and do over the few days with 36 hours of free entertainment from traditional music and dance sessions, to live open air music, story-telling, workshops, street-theatre, busking, face painting, puppet theatre, a pet show, bonny baby contest, and Ireland’s premier funfair, Euroshow. And the pubs stay open until 3am!
An estimated 100,000 people will visit the town over the 3 days. Commenting on the huge economic importance the festival has to the town of Killorglin and the surrounding areas, Sean Kelly MEP, who officially launched the fair, said “Puck Fair has attained iconic status, and has put the town of Killorglin on the map internationally. It is estimated to be worth in excess of €7 Million and is a huge credit to the voluntary committee who selflessly give up their time every year”.
For a list of all to see and do at Puck Fair see www.puckfair.ie, but for now here’s a taster …..
Get a good vantage point at the Crowning Ceremony:
Local schoolgirl Ciara O’ Brien has been chosen as this year’s Queen of Puck, and she will take centre stage on August 10 at the coronation ceremony, which will see a wild mountain goat crowned as King.
Following the crowning the Queen of Puck and her goat companion, King Puck, will parade through the town granting the ‘Freedom of the Town’ before King Puck takes his mantle, centre stage in the town.
The parade is set to be the biggest and best yet with more floats and colourful participants guaranteed to entertain the thousands expected to line the streets on the day, and a new route to ensure spectators have the best vantage points.
Haggle at Ireland’s oldest Horse Fair
Another highlight of the festival is the Horse Fair, which takes place on August 10th. This is the oldest and longest continually running horse fair in the country, and it originally took place on the streets of Killorglin, as was the tradition of many of the fairs in times gone by, but it has since moved to a very large green-field site within walking distance of the town centre (for space & safety reasons). The buying and selling horses, ponies, donkeys & equipment starts very early in the morning, and continues throughout the opening day of Puck Fair.
Snap up a bargain at the Markets and Craft Fair
Snatch up hidden gems and score yourself a bargain on the second day, known locally as ‘Fair Day’ at street markets and craft fairs, as the lively trade reaches its peak – but be prepared to haggle. The fun of shopping, at the hundreds of stalls lining the streets at Puck Fair, lies in the spirited interaction with the stall holders. You’ll find everything you could possible hope for among the tented stands, from horse tack to fashion and crafts, to produce. Shopping at Puck is a unique experience beloved by thousands and is certainly not to be missed.
Enjoy hours of free Family Fun
There’s plenty to do for families with face painting, puppet theatre, a pet show, bonny baby contest, and Ireland’s premier funfair, Euroshow.
Learn a new skill at a workshop
Instead of putting your skills on show, there is always the option to learn some new ones; fun and free workshops are in abundance at Puck Fair. From learning the difference between a jig and reel at the ever popular Irish dance workshop, to tying yourself up in knots with Circus skills - get involved or bring along the little ones for an unforgettable experience that’s bound to raise a few laughs.
Be enraptured by Street Theatre and Storytelling
As well as honing your own talents, the chance to marvel at others is around every corner at Puck. Street theatre runs throughout each day of the fair and enraptures audiences each year with everything from specially written pieces to cutting edge and modern drama, with some traditional Irish myths and legends thrown in for good measure.
Story telling has always been an integral part of the culture of Ireland and is as prevalent at Puck as it was 400 years ago.
Leave with a skip in your steps after enjoying Music and Dancing
Hundreds of talented musicians are around every corner at the Puck Fair. Live acts are scheduled almost non-stop for 3 days, so there is no way to leave without a skip in your step. Visitors will enjoy free traditional music and dance sessions, busking and late night bars. Live open air music will fill the streets, and this year’s line-up includes Irish Country Music star Derek Ryan, Ruaile Buaile, a young Irish based four piece modern day Trad / Pop / Folk group, a Christy Moore tribute, Liam Byrne and many more.
Puck Pub Trail
If you manage to miss out on any of the planned musical performances, there will always be a chance to catch some impromptu sessions on the famous pub trail. With ‘craic agus ceoil’ guaranteed, this is an opportunity to really get into the spirit of the fair. Hear haggling over horses, lively banter and traditional music in its most organic form at any of Killorglin’s charming pubs. You can get to know the locals who are always more than happy to provide newcomers with tales of the fair’s colourful history, or simply lose yourself in your surroundings and watch the festivities come to you.
For the brave at heart, there is the chance to test your metal on some of the most daring carnival rides the country has to offer! Never fear though, if you are less of an adrenaline junkie there are also tamer attractions. The Euroshow is a must for families attending the fair, as young and old can get together and share in the fun.
For the full program of events and to learn more about the lengthy history of this festival visit www.puckfair.ie. Follow them on www.facebook.com/puckfair or twitter @puck_fair for pictures and live updates.