THE FINE weather last week saw the irrepressible Fungie in splendid form; and why wouldn't he be having spent 30 happy years in Dingle's waters and with an all-out festival in the works to celebrate the life and times of Ireland's most famous dolphin.
From Friday April 26 to Sunday April 28, the town will host a special weekend of celebration marking Fungie's 30 glorious years in Dingle and everyone is invited to what has to be one of the most unique events to take place during the year of The Gathering.
First spotted by the late lighthouse keeper Paddy Ferriter back in 1983, Fungie has become a worldwide phenomenon and countless thousands have made the pilgrimage to Dingle to experience the company of one of the world's most unique, gentle and special beings.
RTE broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan will officially launch Fungie's special weekend on Friday, March 26, in John Benny's at 8.30pm followed by a special performance by Lumiere.
Fittingly the opening ceremony will also feature John O'Connor who, along with his family, was the first to dive with Fungie. Other early companions of Fungie, Sean Mannion and Ronnie Fitzgibbon, will also be appearing over the weekend.
Organisers told The Kerryman this week that children are especially welcome and, as to make sure they're not left out, many of the events are free of charge. Storytelling by a member of the local dolphin group, Suzanne Murtagh, kids' activities at Dingle Oceanworld and a children's workshop at the Dingle Bookshop will supplement frequent sailings and swims with Fungie over the weekend.
Bernie Pháid Ní Mhuircheartaigh will curate an evening of poetry and song on Saturday evening at Curran's while St James's Churdh will host a special concert featuring Eoin Duignan, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Dairena Ni Cinnéide and other guests.
Celebrated artist Maria Simonds-Gooding - who did a noted series of Fungie-inspired works - will present paintings and drawings in the Skellig Hotel on Sunday afternoon before the action shifts to the Courthouse Bar where a music session and barbeque is planned.
At 8pm on Sunday, playwright Michael Hilliard Mulcahy will present a rehearsed reading by Don Wycherley from his latest play, 'Sarah Miles & Me on a Deep Blue Sea' at the Beehive Theatre.
The weekend will also feature talks by Nick Massett of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group while dolphin expert Dr Horace Dobbs will offer insights into Fungie's unique friendliness.
A special screening of 'The Dolphin's Gift' which was produced by local resident Tor Cotton is also scheduled followed by a special Q&A session with people who have bonded with Fungie.
Finally Monsignor Padraig Ó Fiannachta will round off the celebrations when he takes to the sea to bless Fungie, who is regarded as one of the world's most beloved cetaceans.
"Fungie being in Dingle for 30 years is such a unique event, since he is the only bottlenose dolphin that stayed in once place for such a long time," said Jeannine Massett, who along with Rudi Schmart visits Fungie every day in their boat. "Hopefully Fungie may be around for many years to come, as he is happy and healthy. Nobody knows his real age - we estimate him at 37 - and bottlenose dolphin can live up their fifties"
"Fungie is still here and we love and respect him and we are looking forward to the celebration weekend because it will be such a great reunion of so many of our friends and indeed Fungie's friends," she added.
A programme of the weekend's events is now available online at FungieDolphin.com.