The annual Puck Fair is underway in Kilorglin, Co Kerry and yesterday the town welcomed 50,000 visitors for the event.
The Puck Fair is a tradition that takes place on the 10th-12th August every year and sees a goat be named ‘King Puck’.
The goat is paraded through the streets before being raised 30ft in the air and placed on a stand to watch over the revellers.
The origins of the festival are unknown but some say it dates back to the 17th century when the town was under attack from Oliver Cromwell’s troops.
The story goes that the troops had arrived after nightfall hoping to be able to take advantage of the element of surprise.
However, while the people of the town were unaware of the impending threat, the troops managed to disturb the local goats. So much so that herds of goats ran amok through the town and caused a large commotion.
Cromwell’s men were forced to retreat as they had lost their element of surprise.
Ever since, the people of Kilorglin have celebrated the event by honouring a goat as the ‘King Puck’.
However, many people say that the origins of the festival go much further back, even as far as pre-Christian Ireland.
Puck Fair chairman Declan Mangan said: “It’s an old Pagan-Celtic custom that’s been going on here for centuries.
“No one knows why exactly the goat was chosen, but it’s stuck ever since.”
The Puck Fair has drawn controversy recently with animal rights group ARAN saying that the event is unfair on a wild animal.
The goat is caught in the Kerry Mountains three weeks before the event and is washed and given a ‘haircut’.
ARAN spokesman John Carmody said: “The puck is a wild animal who doesn’t understand the loud noise, bright lights and thousands of people in front of him and certainly doesn’t understand being hoisted into the air and left to dangle over a weekend.
“We’re encouraging the festival goers to get with the times and take the puck out of the Fair, because if you wouldn’t do it to your dog, why do it to a goat?”
The Puck Fair committee responded with a long statement saying: “The Goat is not, as claimed, hoisted and left alone for three days on the stand. King Puck is placed on his platform at 6pm on August 10th and removed from the stand at 6pm on August 12th – 48 hours later.
“During that time he is checked on regularly to ensure there is adequate space, food and water by his handlers and he is examined daily by a certified vet. The cage has also been extended this year to allow five inches of standing room between roof and its horns and there is guaranteed 24 hour emergency veterinary cover in place, should any unforeseen issues arise.
“The Puck Fair committee has always been to the forefront of animal welfare, ensuring a safe and secure environment for the hundreds of animals on sale at both the horse fair on August the 10th and Cattle Fair on August 11th.”
As well as the crowning of the King Puck, the festival also includes a range of food, drink, music, dancing, stalls and fairground rides.
At the end of the festival the goat is taken down from the stand and returned to its home in the nearby Kerry Mountains.
For more information about the Puck Fair check out the official Facebook page
Puck Fair TV 2015 Episode 1 – The Launch of Puck Fair 2015
Puck Fair TV 2015 Episode 2 – Gathering Day Morning – August 10th
Puck Fair TV 2015 Episode 3 – Highlights of the Coronation parade