In one of his first official duties, the newly crowned king of the redheads, bearded Gary Fitzgibbon, 22, had to pour ice water over Irish Redhead Convention founder Joleen Cronin and her key lieutenants as the three-day festival came to a close in Crosshaven, Co Cork.
Gary, from Crosshaven, and his queen, curly flame-haired Laura-May Keohane, 21, from Kinsale, were crowned on Saturday.
The red carpet was rolled out for the royal redhead couple, who will act as international ambassadors for the hugely popular festival which has become recognised as one of the best on Europe’s ginger circuit.
Almost 3,000 ginger nuts painted the town red across the weekend.
Despite glorious sunshine on Saturday, which poses its own special risks to redheads, huge crowds attended the competition judging.
After a rigorous judging process by a panel of experts, including legendary redhead Bibi Baskin, Laura May, a masters student of international tourism from Kinsale, was chosen as queen.
“I just hope to be a great ambassador for the festival and for redheads everywhere. It’s great to be ginger, and I’m proud to be a redhead,” she said.
Her Crosshaven-based king, who likes to wax lyrical about his stunning red beard, and who also likes to wax its tips into magnificent sweeping curves, also vowed to represent his people with dignity.
Other awards went to Ashley Mackenzie-White, 28, from Dunedin in New Zealand, who scooped the furthest travelled award.
Father of three, Shane O’Grady, from Kildorrerry, Co Cork, won the best red-bearded dad award, and Orla Buckely, won the best red-head mum award.
There was a three-way tie for the most ‘Freckles per Square inch between Alexander Eeigo, from Vermont USA, Nicole White from Clonakilty and Finbarr Wardick, 9, from Dublin.
Visitors also enjoyed wacky competitions, including the famous carrot-tossing championships, and circus act workshops.
Red hair, the rarest of hair colours, accounts for only 0.6% of the global population. Ireland has the second highest proportion of redheads at 10%.
Amid concerns that redheads are dying out, organisers arranged a special Ginger Speed Dating session last night, to combat any threat of extinction.
However, there was a serious side to the festival too.
New Irish research presented by UCC psychology student Kevin O’Regan shows that redheads are more likely to be bullied, with so-called gingerism the last, socially accepted form of prejudice.
This, combined with the often negative portrayal of redheads in movies and cartoons, may contribute to anxiety disorders and depression, he warned.
However, Hollywood A-listers such as Michael Fassbener and Amy Adams have emerged as hugely positive role models for redheads, he said.
“Redheads are rare and stand out from the crowd,” said Ms Cronin.
“A lot of what we do at the convention empowers redheads to be proud of our uniqueness. We can’t wait for next year’s festival.”
- Best wannabe redhead: Susan Flynn, Louth.
- Best redhead couple: Caitriona and Gerard Lynch from Tallanstown, Co Louth.
- Best redhead family: The Wardick Family, Dublin.
- Best ex-redhead: Fergal Barr, Derry.
- Best red beard: Red McMahon, Dublin.
- Best red eyebrows: Anna Lydon, age three, Birmingham.
- Youngest redhead: Liam Finn, six months, Charleville.
- Longest red hair: Kelsey Kelleher, Phoenix, Arizona.
- Curliest red hair: Euan Whelean, age 12.
- Most porcelain skin: Una O’Neill, Kilkenny.