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Marie meets: The Wander Wild Team

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Wandering wild in our very own National Park is a gift that keeps on giving with every season. An outdoor enthusiast's playground with endless activities and spectacular scenery in every direction.

An expanse of rugged, mountainous country that sweeps down to 'our' world-famous Lakes of Killarney. Renowned for our warmth and hospitality all over the world, the non-profit, Wander Wild Festival, in its third year, is a credit to the volunteers and an asset to tourists and locals alike. This month, I met up with Pat Chawke and Paul O'Neill to hear how the preparations for one of our first festivals of 2024.

What exactly is the Wander Wild Festival?
“Wander Wild is a unique adventure and wellness festival with over 100 activity-filled events set amongst the lakes and mountains of the 25,000-acre Killarney National Park [a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve] where Killarney Town is the festival’s ‘Base-Camp’” Pat explained. “Our programme is built with sustainability at its core, activities are experienced in a nature-positive way and throughout the festival people have the opportunity to learn new ways of being and living more sustainably. This year's festival, supported by Fáilte Ireland and sponsored by Nature Valley will place between March 22-24,” Paul continued.

So tell me, what should one expect during the festival?
“Great Craic!!” Paul replied. “There are also over 100 different events and activities in the Reeks, the Park, the Town and other locations. We provide a bus to every activity outside town and encourage people to leave their own cars at home” Paul said. “We also provide volunteering opportunities during the festival. During the day, people are in the outdoors, at the wellness hub, urban orienteering, enjoying music and chatting in Basecamp or discovering on the food trail” Pat continued.

It sounds like a lot of coordination. Is it a difficult event to schedule?
“Yes,” Pat replied as he took a deep breath. “The festival is like a business. We have to be involved in setting goals, drawing up a budget, securing venues, booking activity providers and artists, developing and executing a marketing plan, sourcing funding and sponsorship, developing a safety plan, coordinating volunteers, ensuring that each event has adequate insurance, manage permissions and licences required from the local authority, the Gardaí, the NPWS, the Fire Officer and plan for inclement weather etc”.

I'd imagine the festival contributes to the local economy.
“In the long term, the festival positions Killarney as the Great Outdoors capital of Ireland and highlights the enormous range of activities that are available, most of them year-round. In the past, Killarney has made a good living from accommodating visitors who sat on a bus and drove around the ring of Kerry,” Paul explained. “The next generation of visitors will want to have more active experiences. In the short term, local activity providers are contracted to provide activities and accommodation providers, cafes, bars, supermarkets etc. all benefit from the spending power of festival attendees. Wander Wild is also about sustainability” Pat replied.

Who is responsible for the creation of this wonderful Wander Wild Festival?
“Wander Wild is a Chamber of Tourism & Commerce festival and has a committee of volunteers that give up an incredible amount of their time for free, from as early as September to April every year, to plan and execute the festival. We work very closely with Kerry County Council, NPWS, the Gardaí and the Reeks Forum to ensure that all elements of the festival are delivered safely and with little negative impact on our environment. Fáilte Ireland has been incredibly supportive of the festival and Brand Killarney. The festival is not for profit and any surplus generated is invested back into the festival” Pat replied.

Does the Festival connect with the youth of Killarney at all?
Wander Wild has a very important educational remit as part of our mission. We want to heighten awareness of the very special environment that we are fortunate to live in. We have workshops with the 5th years from the town's schools covering issues such as biodiversity, responsible use of the Park, Mindfulness, the importance of the outdoors to mental health and other topics. We have also arranged for talks in the schools from individuals with special formative stories to tell.

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30 years of Innisfallen Island MassThe annual special concelebrated Mass on Innisfallen Island takes place next week.

Next Friday (June 21), members of the public are invited to attend the Mass taking place at 6.30pm. Now in its 30th year, the Mass was originally an idea by […]

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Next Friday (June 21), members of the public are invited to attend the Mass taking place at 6.30pm.

Now in its 30th year, the Mass was originally an idea by Geoffrey O’Donoghue who sadly died four years after it began.

“There was an Augustinian Monastery on Innisfallen Island and the people, including priests and monks and they say Brian Boro, went out there to study. The lake, Lough Lein is called ‘The Lake of Learning’,” said his wife Mary who carries on the tradition in his memory.

“My husband Geoffrey was a descendent of the O’Donoghues and he wanted to have Mass on the island. The O’Donoghues built Ross Castle and owned the lands and the lake surrounding it which was later donated by John McShane to the people of Killarney. He [Geoffrey] asked one of the friars and one day he got a call from the OPW that there would be a plaque unveiled to John McShane and they asked if the Mass could coincide with it. It was attended by Sr Pauline, John McShane’s daughter.”

She added that all the public are welcome to attend. Boats, which will have a nominal fee to cover their costs, will be carrying passengers out from 4pm onwards.

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Photo of “hidden gem” wins Camera Club’s latest competition

A photograph of one of Killarney’s hidden beauty spots was deemed the winner of Killarney Camera Club’s most recent competition. Th standard was high throughout all categories but in the […]

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A photograph of one of Killarney’s hidden beauty spots was deemed the winner of Killarney Camera Club’s most recent competition.

Th standard was high throughout all categories but in the Novice category, Iryna Halaieva’s photograph of O’Sullivan’s Cascade was deemed the winner.

“A waterfall is my favourite waterbody and long exposure is my favourite photographic technique,” she said. “I do my best to have as many waterfalls as possible in my photo collection. I heard a lot about O’Sullivan’s Cascade and wanted to visit that hidden gem of Kerry. So, shortly before our club competition I went with a friend to Tomies Wood to photograph it. It was a dream come true for me.”

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