Friday 24 November 2017

Puck Fair still the king of festivals as 100,000 revellers join in the fun

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

ACTING the goat is now big business in the Kingdom.

Only in Kerry could a festival presided over by a wild goat be responsible for the world's biggest population explosion -- and a tourism bonanza now worth millions to the local economy.

For Danny Slattery (97) it's no surprise that Puck Fair is now an international festival legend.

Danny attended his first Puck Fair way back in 1928 -- and had to ride a horse the long distance from Ardfert to Killorglin just for the privilege. He hasn't missed a Puck Fair since.

The crowds may be bigger, the festival goers more multi-national but, for Danny, like many others, Puck Fair is still about fun, friends and a bit of music.

Killorglin revelled in occasional burst of glorious sunshine yesterday as Puck Fair 2010 shaped up to shatter all existing records.

It also enjoyed its greatest ever international media profile.

American, French, UK and Irish TV crews mingled with the vast crowds that milled over the River Laune bridge.

A bronze puck goat stood guard on one bank, with a real-life billy on the other.

The American TV crew was shooting a special tourism documentary on Ireland.

For overseas visitors, the festival is now an exhilarating cocktail of old-time Ireland mixed in with a thick commercial slice of the Celtic Tiger era.

New Orleans may have Mardi Gras and Pamplona may have San Fermin, but Killorglin's Puck Fair lays proud claim to be the 'daddy' of all Irish festivals.

Yesterday, you could buy everything on Main Street and Bridge Street from a bodhran to a Massey-Ferguson baseball hat and from New Age jewellery to organic Kerry bath soap.

"I have never seen anything like it -- we are very glad we came today. It is a great spectacle," Swedish holidaymaker Lars Ullstrom and his family said.

At 11am, a few revellers even started up an impromptu Bluegrass square-dance -- to the admiring cheers of a throng of pint-drinkers outside The Step Inn.

The town of 2,000 residents will host an estimated 100,000 visitors by tomorrow -- a 5,000pc population hike which other Irish tourism destinations can only dream of.

Politicians rubbed shoulders with celebrities including chef Richard Corrigan as local shop-owners traded like there was no tomorrow.

Unique

Puck Fair chairman Declan Mangan said the festival -- which traces its roots back to pagan Celtic times -- is absolutely unique.

"If there is one word that sums up Puck Fair it is 'atmosphere'. There is a sense of fun on the streets. It is a bit like Christmas Day in the middle of August," he added.

The success of this year's festival is, in fact, a little 'taster' for what lies ahead in 2013 and 2014.

"In 2013 we will be celebrating the 400-year anniversary of the granting of a charter to local landlord Jenkins Conway from King James I -- this is the first written mention of a fair in Killorglin. So that will be a bit special," he said.

Even better for the army of Puck Fair festival volunteers, Killorglin will celebrate the 800th anniversary of its town founding in 2014 -- another excuse for a party.

Local publican Declan Falvey said the fair is vital to the local economy.

"It is the biggest three days of the year for almost everyone in Killorglin," he explained.

Irish Independent

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