Fun in the sun as King Puck is crowned

THE goat took a back seat as ponies and donkeys took centre stage at a busy day of trading at Puck Fair yesterday.

It seemed every second kid was on the lookout for a pony at the horse fair Gathering Day in sun-splashed Killorglin, Co Kerry.

Piebalds, skewbalds and plain foxy ponies were fetching from 1,000 upwards and donkeys were also in demand, with good class mares reported to be also making 1,000 and more.

Evans' field on the Tralee road was the scene of the trading and while buyers reported an improvement in quality in recent years, sales were slow.

Quality hunters were few enough, with 2,800 being asked for one of the finest on show.

"If you've the right type of animal, you could ask anything," said Luke Keane, of Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry, who was in the middle of the fair with his pony. "The moon or the sky is the limit"

According to Shane McElroy, a fair director, crowds were up on last year, reflecting the growth in the equine leisure industry.

With the thirst of thousands of revellers to be slaked in searing heat, there was huge demand for drinks of every description.

Pubs were packed and main sponsors Guinness reckoned up to 200,000 pints will be quaffed during the festival.

The 200 stall holders who lined the bustling streets of Killorglin also appeared to be doing a roaring trade, offering bargains in bangles, bracelets, sunglasses shoes, toys and body accessories guaranteed to cure all aches You could purchase a range of of mobile phone accessories and DIY stalls seemed to be more numerous than usual, with a huge choice of grinders, socket sets, hydraulic jacks and chainsaws for sale.

Madame Rose Lee and her many sisters and cousins were also in the thick of action, palm reading and looking into crystal balls.

Around 100,000 people are expected to attend the three-day festival, generating revenue estimated at 6m.

Last night, around 10,000 watched an age-old ritual the crowning of a male mountain goat as King Puck 2003 by Fair Queen Anita O'Shea, 12, before being hoisted onto a 50ft pedestal in the town square.

Today's programme includes a 1,000 busking competition and Mickey Harte will perform in concert tonight.

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