Red hair of every shade, from auburn tresses and strawberry blonde to carroty orange was on display for the quirky three-day celebration of all things ginger, The convention has become an international event, with foxy folk from as far afield as New Zealand, Finland and the US congregating in the Co Cork town.
Mike and Joleen Mackay came all the way from San Francisco to attend. “An Irish colleague of mine told me about it 2½ years ago, and I said, ‘we’re there!’” Mike said. Mike and Joleen picked up the prize for best redheaded couple in Saturday’s competition, which also featured prizes for longest red hair, best red beard and most freckles per square inch.
The festival featured art exhibitions, a “Redhead cinema” and a Kidzone, complete with carrot-tossing competition, as well as ginger speed-dating and a host of other events.
Alan Reidy of Blennerville, Co Kerry, and Fermoy Rose Gráinne Keena were crowned King and Queen of the Redheads on Saturday and headed up a redhead parade of more than 500 people. On Sunday, they accepted good wishes from their subjects as they tucked into lunch outside Cronin’s pub. Alan, whose crowning glory is an arresting red afro, is planning on using his title to spread a positive message about being a redhead. “I’m going to be the beacon of hope that every ginger kid can look up to,” he said.
Organiser Joleen Cronin was keen to emphasise that the weekend was also being used to highlight the Irish Cancer Society’s Sun Smart campaign, which educates people about the risks of skin cancer.
Some 20% of the festival’s ticket fees, as well as the sale of portrait prints by photographer Jörg Köster, went to the Irish Cancer Society.
Blues singer Mary Coughlan was on hand to close out the “Foxygen” music stage in the square with a special version of Red-haired Mary by the Clancy Brothers. The flame-haired songstress was delighted with the festival. “It’s absolutely magnificent,” she said. “I’ve never seen so many redheads in one place before! It’s lovely to look down on a sea of red from the stage.”