Ireland to celebrate spring’s arrival with annual event

The Shamrock CEOS Club will sponsor a contest in conjunction with the 32nd annual Irish Spring Festival, scheduled for March 10, 14-20 in the southern Lewis County community of Ireland.

The Blarney Rock! is the theme for this year’s festival at the Community Building. The club is asking those wishing to enter the contest to create a unique representation of the festival theme. Entries will be judged in two categories: Crafty Creations and Edible Creations. Those entering the edible category are asked to bring enough for festival goers to taste and judge. Judging will be done by a popular vote.

For information on the contest, call 304-452-8962.

The Blarney Rock, located above the Community Building, is a popular destination during the Irish Spring Festival. This year’s Ascent to Blarney Rock will begin at 6:30 a.m. March 20, and hikers are expected to finish the hike to the “magically” suspended rock in time for the 7:02 a.m. vernal equinox and declaration of the beginning of spring. Hikers often leave a shiny penny at the base of the rock so that leprechauns will grant wishes for good luck.

The festival began in 1981 after a research effort by the local West Virginia University Extension Homemakers Club revealed the tiny town was first settled by Andrew Wilson, a man known affectionately as “Old Irleand.” Legend has it that the man lived to be 114 years old during a time when the average lifespan was a mere 38 years.

It is believed that the Blarney Rock has a legendary effect on human aging.

If the hike is made for 114 consecutive springs, then a person will live to be as old as Wilson, according to the local legend.

The festival begins at 11:30 a.m. Sunday with a flag-raising ceremony, followed by a Pot o’ Luck dinner at 1 p.m., and a Psalms of Ireland gospel sing at 2:30 p.m. at the Ireland United Methodist Church.

The festival kicks into full gear March 14 with the official opening ceremonies at 7 p.m., complete a reception for the festival’s king and queen.

The royalty will be crowned during a 9 p.m. ceremony March 5.

Arts and crafts, harp music, a commemorative Ireland postal station stamp cancellation in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and lots of food will highlight the weekend’s events at the Community Building.

The parade will be held at 1 p.m. March 16. The always popular Irish Road Bowling will be held at 2:30 p.m. March 16 and again at 1:30 p.m. March 17.