Friday 24 March 2017

Heady mix of dung, stout and chips hits Puck bullseye

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

IT is an intoxicating aroma unique to Puck Fair: a heady combination of burgers and chips, freshly-poured stout, candy floss, cattle manure and bargain perfumes at just three bottles for €20.

Yesterday, the smells and sounds of Puck Fair combined to create an atmosphere that must have been reminiscent of proud Kerry fairs from centuries past.

Unlike other fairs that have banished livestock from their town centres, Killorglin was a flurry of cattle deals yesterday -- most being struck on Langford Street, just metres from where King Puck calmly looked down on his temporary subjects.

For cattle drovers, they were merely keeping alive a tradition that dates back to the time of the Normans.

Foreign tourists revelled in the sight of cattle pens being located on a street adjacent to the King Puck stand -- with dealers ignoring the street entertainment and camera-happy tourists to strike a deal and celebrate over a pint.

"Prices have been good enough -- there's been a fair few deals done already," Danny O'Callaghan from Killorglin said.

"There won't be too many taking home unsold cattle tonight. Prices haven't been bad at all -- one man sold a few cattle that are now going up to Fermanagh."

Paudie Cronin, also from Killorglin, echoed those sentiments and said, despite difficult trading conditions for horse breeders on Tuesday, cattlemen had a better time of it yesterday.

Chief amongst the reported buyers was renowned Kerry farmer and UK construction tycoon, Dan Tim O'Sullivan, who kept a shrewd eye on the cattle on offer throughout the day.

Which is hardly surprising given that, since the fair was formally given a charter back in the 17th century, Killorglin has been famed for the quality of its ponies, sport-horses and cattle.

Famed

Samuel Lewis wrote back in 1837 that Puck Fair was famed for the unbroken mounts being traded and quality cattle sold.

But perhaps the cattle could be forgiven for being slightly on edge.

Several perceptive animals cast understandably anxious glances out of their pen at the nearest business premises on Langford Street -- the Real Burger restaurant.

Killorglin now remains on course to record its greatest-ever Puck Fair crowds. The weather has held relatively dry and there have been occasional bursts of glorious sunshine.

A bonny baby competition followed by a succession of free open-air concerts kept the large crowds entertained -- with stall holders reported to be doing a roaring trade.

"It's the best fair I've been at this year -- there's lot of business being done and people seem to be spending their money when the sun shines," trader Moss Magee explained.

With Puck Fair attracting 100,000 people over three days and delivering a multi-million euro boost to the Kerry economy, tourism chiefs in the Kingdom are also now determined to make the most of Ireland's oldest fair.

All Kerry Tourism (AKT) aims to help co-ordinate the promotion of the county's tourism potential to ensure the maximum value is derived from events like Puck Fair and the Rose of Tralee.

"This is very much a grassroots organisation with the main emphasis on having the tourism-related businesses control the promotion of the county. This will ensure that the high-quality product that is Kerry as a tourist destination will be brought to the attention of as wide an audience as possible," explained AKT chairperson Mary Rose Stafford of IT Tralee.

AKT is also going to encourage all Kerry people -- including people with Kerry connections -- to act as tourism ambassadors for the county both at home and abroad.

Irish Independent

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