Ireland's Puck Fair
"Where a goat acts the king, the people can act the goat!"
Always on the lookout for interesting global events, the Puck Fair in County Kerry, Ireland caught my interest from when I first heard of it! One of Ireland's most unique street festivals, Puck Fair is 3 days of free family entertainment. Eager to share it with our wandering educators, I contacted Puck Fair and asked for more information.
For centuries now, Puck Fair is Ireland's oldest festival. Held annually on the 10th-12th of August, a wild mountain goat taken from the local McGuillicuddy Reeks Mountains is made the King of the Town of Killorglin for three days and nights, and then released back into the wild.
As well, a local 12-year old girl from the local national school is chosen as the Queen of Puck Fair for the festival, and recites a speech in Irish, English, French, and German for the opening address of the coronation parade.
The origins of the fair have been lost to antiquity, but evidence suggests that the fair existed long before written records. The most widely mentioned story of the origin of King Puck associates him with with the English leader, Oliver Cromwell. While the Roundheads were pillaging the country around Shanara and Kilgobnet at the foot of the McGillicuddy Reeks, they disturbed a herd of grazing goats. The animals ran, and one male goat (or Puck) broke away from the herd. He headed to Killorglin, and arrived there exhausted, thus warning the inhabitants of approaching danger. They then instituted a special festival in his honor, which has been held ever since.
The fair has long been, and continues to be, the main social, economic, and cultural event in the Killorglin Calendar. Old friends meet, new friendships are forged, and people forget the cares of every day living for three days.
The Coronation parade kicks off the Puck Fair, and celebrates the crowning of the King. The King then sits on top of the town, in a throne on a hoist high above the rooftops! He is well fed, and feted the entire festival as visitors (over 100,000 from across the globe) celebrate his short reign. Pipers, drummers, traditional Irish music sessios, balladeers, and street entertainers of all types help with the celebration.
The fair then hosts a traditional horse fair, held in the local Evan's field abouve the town. The best horses are sold quite early, between 7am and noon.
Music is very important at the Puck Fair. This year, the Meteor award winner and indie rocker Mundy will perform at an open air gig. He is not only an incredible musician, but also a brilliant performer - leaving the entire audience with a big grin on their faces.
The Camembert Quartet are a group of five of Ireland's most accomplished musicians, and this hilarious, satirical group will get the fair rocking. Onora, a quartet big on the Kerry music scene, will entertain, as well as local musicians Brendan O'Connor, Patrick O'Connor, Kieran Healy, and Helena Connolly bringing traditional and contemporary Irish music. Kell, one of the finest Celtic rock bands on the London-Irish circuit will rock the house. Blarney Brass & Reed Band will perform in the parade, as will the Arkow Marching Band and Fanfare Piston (a band composed of students from the Ecole Centrale de Lyon, in France). All of these musicians will provide quite an experience for Puck Fair!
Family entertainment this year is quite varied! Included is the traditional horse fair and cattle fair, wobbly circus street entertainer, bonny baby competition, the Biddy Bunratty experience, face painting, coronation and dethronement parade, musical street entertainment, a cultural trail, pet show, Irish/set dancing display, fancy dress, cork circus walkabout monsters, Luigi Budini, acrobat and juggler.
The last day is called Scattering Day, where King Puck is dethroned. The square teems with people as international accents contrast with the musical Kerry lilt of the locals. Once dethroned, the King is paraded through the streets before released to his home in the wilds of the mountains of Kerry. However, the fete continues, and the sound of merry music meets the dawn, to send revelers back to their homes across the globe - tired, but happy and looking forward to the next Puck Fair.
Declan Mangan, Chairman, Puck Fair Organising Committee, said, “We are delighted to be welcoming such accomplished musicians in 2008. Puck Fair has held a long standing relationship with musical talents over the year with Linda Martin, Micky Joe Harte, Sharon Shannon and Francis Black all having graced the stage.”
“The festival particularly celebrates fun for all the family with street entertainers such as the ‘Wobbly Circus’, ‘Biddy Bunratty Experience’, face painting, a pet show, walkabout clowns, fancy dress, Cork Circus with their ‘Monsters from the Marsh ‘ and ‘Luigi Budini’ an Italien Jester specialising at acrobatics and juggling. Birds Bizzare Amusements will be present for all the kids to enjoy and as well as the more traditional aspects of the festival such as the horse fair on the first day and the cattle fair on the second day. A huge fireworks display at midnight on the final night will close the festival” he said.
For more information on Puck Fair, please see: http://www.puckfair.ie/
For accommodations, please see: http://www.goireland.com/
All photos provided by Puck Fair.