Killorglin's much loved Puck Fair is undeniably one of quirkiest festivals in the world, as well as being Ireland’s original and oldest “Gathering Festival.”
The pinnacle of the celebration surrounds the crowning of a wild mountain goat as the festival's king. This coronation ceremony traditionally takes place on the first evening of the festivities in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland. This year’s King Puck is also to be crowned “The King of the Wild Atlantic Way.”
This year local girl Kerry Lynch (12), from Glounaguillagh National School, Caragh Lake, has been named as the Queen of Puck Fair and Bláthnaid Carney, from Killorglin, as her “lady in waiting.” Her majesty will be honored with the crowning of the goat king during the most popular celebration of the fair.
Prior to the coronation, the King and Queen will be paraded through the town in order to bestow the “Freedom of the Town” upon all in attendance and the festival itself. This marks the beginning of three days of ceremony, merriment, celebration and music.
Jerry Mulvihill, a Killorglin local, claims in his book, “The Puck Fair – Ireland's Oldest Celebration,” this unique Irish festival has its roots in the 4th century pagan Ireland. He wrote that in pagan times the wild goat would have been sacrificed.
The festival, which runs from August 10 to 12, was said to be linked to the Celtic festival of Lughnasa, which symbolizes the beginning of harvest. The goat was a symbol of pagan fertility.
Here’s a video from 2015’s festival:
Every year locals capture a wild goat in the Macgillycuddy Reeks and brought it back to town. Mulvihill writes that one of the best-known goat catchers was Michael 'Butty' Sugrue, once known as Ireland's strongest man
The “Queen of Puck,” usually a young schoolgirl, crowns the goat “King Puck.” The goat is placed in a small cage on a high stand for three days as the locals celebrate with markets, entertainment and late-opening pubs. At the end of the fair the goat is released back into the wild.
This year the 403rd King Puck was captured in the wooded valleys and hills of Glencar, County Kerry. He will also act as the “King of the Road” mascot for the Wild Atlantic Way tourism route, stretching along the west coast of the country.
Mulvihill grew up just four miles from Killorglin and has only missed one Puck Fair, when he was traveling in Australia. He said locals would rather visit Killorglin for Puck Fair than Christmas.
He told the Irish Independent, "If you're from Kerry, and especially near Killorglin, it's a very exciting time and a real reunion.”
The annual festival attracts visitors from around the country and the world. Day one includes a traditional horse fair in the morning. King Puck is then paraded through the main square where he meets his Queen. The Queen, who wins this honor by writing an essay on the fair, then reads the Puck Fair Proclamation and the new king is crowned.
The second day is Fair Day, the heart of the festival. This sees various types of vendors descend on the town with anything from animals to jewelry for sale. There are live musical performances, talent contests, a 'Bonny Baby' competition, storytelling and all sorts of other entertainment.
The third day, Scattering Day, sees the king relieved of his duties and returned to the wild after he’s paraded through the town one last time. Celebrations then continue late into the night.
For more visit www.puckfair.ie.