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PUCK FAIR FESTIVAL
KILLORGLIN CO. KERRY IRELAND

Story and photos by

In Killorglin, Ireland, a wild male goat (puck) is crowned King Puck at the town's annual Puck Fair. It was the last thing we expected to see during our Go Ireland guided walking tour.

King Puck mascot greets visitors in street.
King Puck mascot greets visitors in street.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Where is Killorglin? The gateway to the Iveragh Peninsula is located in Co. Kerry, Southwest Ireland. It is also a stop on the 110-mile (177-kilometer) Ring of Kerry driving tour.

Killorglin overlooks the Laune River, which flows from the Killarney Lakes into Dingle Bay at Callinafersy. The Irish/Gaelic name for Killorglin is Cill Orglain, which means Church of Orgla.

When is Puck Fair Festival?

The population of Killorglin (2,000) swells to more than 60,000 during the three-day festival. Held on August 10, 11 and 12 annually, Puck Fair is one of the three oldest festivals in Ireland.

Records of the Killorglin festival date back to 1613, yet Irish legend claims it dates back to the pagan festival of Lughnasa. Others say that the history of Puck Fair goes back to the days when a wild puck warned Cill Orglain about a raid from Oliver Cromwell's troops.

Some historians give credit to lawyer Daniel O'Connell for recommending a goat fair to exempt Killorglin from the British law banning tolls for horse, cow and sheep fairs.

Wild goat on platform overlooks town square.
Wild goat on platform overlooks town square.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Puck Fair events

August 10 is Gathering Day, when volunteers bring a male goat from the mountains into Killorglin. The bearded Billy goat rides a float, decorated with purple heather and accompanied by a parade of Kerry pipers and young Celtic dancers.

What is the King Puck Coronation Parade route? It travels from The Bridge to Lower Bridge Street, The Square, Upper Bridge Street and then Iveragh Road.

The Queen of Puck Fair is a young school girl dressed in a white Celtic gown and crown. During the Coronation Ceremony, she places a crown on King Puck's head in front of his curved-back horns.

King Puck enters a roofed pen, bedded with fresh straw and stocked with water and food. Men hoist the pen to the top of a three-tier platform in the main square of Killorglin. A band plays on the lower level.

Crowds and tents fill street during Puck Fair.
Crowds and tents fill street during Puck Fair.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Horse show

A horse show is the highlight of August 10. The horse sales area is in Evan's Field on Tralee Road. Vendors sell harnesses, bridles and other horse tack. A Killorglin street is closed to traffic for the cattle fair and sales market on August 11.

August 12 is Scattering Day, when King Puck descends from his 40-foot (12-meter)-high throne. A vet confirms that the goat is healthy before Queen Puck, her ladies and a marching pipe band accompany him in the Dethronement Parade. The route follows Langford Street, The Square and Lower Bridge Street to The Bridge.

Three days after his capture, King Puck is back in his home in the mountains. At midnight, fireworks conclude the final day of Puck Fair.

Little girl eats ice cream cone.
Little girl eats ice cream cone.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Puck Fair entertainment

Fun, food, drink, shopping and entertainment keep locals and visitors busy at Puck Fair. A King Puck mascot, wearing a goat costume, poses for photos with people in crowded streets lined with colorful tent-covered stands.

Kids' activities include Irish storytelling, face-painting, puppet shows and circus acts. Vendors fashion balloons into animals and children's hats. Parents take photos of kids with their faces in cut-out holes in King Puck posters.

Killorglin's Fun Fair features a merry-go-round, bumper cars, thrilling midway rides and games of chance. Hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn, cupcakes and ice cream tempt appetites. Stands sell hats with goat horns, County Kerry crafts, King Puck plush toys and homemade jewelry.

Irish fiddle music

Buskers, Irish fiddlers and dancers provide free entertainment to crowds of people filling the streets. Every evening, until 11:30 pm, bands and musicians offer free concerts at Killorglin's Town Plaza Stage, The Square, Puck Fair Stand and The Stage Truck.

During Puck Fair, Killorglin pubs extend their hours to 3 am. Falvey's pub is one of the oldest pubs in Killorglin.

Musicians play at Falvey's Pub in Killorglin.
Musicians play at Falvey's Pub in Killorglin.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Kerry music

Inside Falvey's, Kerry musicians gather around small tables, playing guitars, accordions, fiddles, flutes and a bodhran. The foam on their glasses of Guinness bounces in rhythm with their tapping feet.

There is barely enough room to squeeze past the tables of drinkers to the back room, where musicians from Dublin are playing more Irish music. As the pub fills up, many drinkers ask the bartender to serve their pints of Guinness in plastic glasses, so they can carry them in the flag-decorated streets.

People-watching is part of the Puck Fair fun. We spotted long-gowned gypsy women, wearing dangling earrings. Gypsies were formerly called tinkers, because they collected metal for resale. Nowadays, Killorglin residents call gypsies the more politically correct term, "travelers."

Statue of male goat, crowned king of Puck Fair
Statue of male goat, crowned king of Puck Fair
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Puck Fair is a popular time for County Kerry family reunions. Parents, children, couples with baby buggies, and even dogs wearing Aran sweaters, stroll along Killorglin streets, enjoying the craic (camaraderie).

King Puck statue

Go Ireland arranges for tour participants to visit Puck Fair when walking tour dates coincide with the Killorglin festival. In late-August, Go Ireland usually organizes a visit to the Glenbeigh Festival, which features horse and pony racing on the beach.

If you miss the August Puck Fair, you can still see a representation of King Puck. A bronze statue of the male Billy goat stands next to Killorglin's River Laune bridge at the end of Main Street.

Puck Fair anniversary

In 2013, Killorglin celebrated the 400th anniversary of the first-recorded Puck Fair. In 1613, King James 1 mentioned the fair in a charter he granted to landlord Jenkins Conway.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Puck Fair: www.puckfair.ie

Go Ireland: www.govisitireland.com

Tourism Ireland: www.discoverireland.com

More things to see and do in Ireland:

Ireland Vacation Planner

Abbey Island - Derrynane National Park - Co. Kerry Ireland

Irish Breakfasts at Ireland B&Bs

Cahergall Stone Ring Fort - Cahersiveen Ireland

Southwest Ireland - Dowsing for Water and Earth Energy