Last Updated on December 17, 2018 by Cat Rogliano
First let me say, I have been very lucky with my time here in Ireland because summer, and especially July, is prime festival season.
My first week in Maynooth there was a traditional Irish music festival called Leinster Fleadh. There was live music in the town square every night for a week, and people from all over Leinster flocked to Maynooth to celebrate the history of traditional Irish music.
This past week I was able to see the 20th anniversary performance of Riverdance live in Dublin at the Gaiety Theater. As a dancer, this meant so much to see the troupe preform live in their original theater. I would highly recommend seeing the show if you are ever in Dublin—it is even worth a night trip if you’re not able to take a weekend excursion to the city.
But so far the cultural excursion I have enjoyed the most was a trip to Leopardstown for a night at the horse races.
What I did not know is that Kildare (the county where Maynooth is located) is basically the Kentucky of Ireland when it comes to horse racing; most of the breeders and jockeys live and train here, and the county hosts more than its fair share of races.
This trip was just for AIFS students, which was nice because we got to meet people specifically in our program and get to know them better. We were not prepared for the fancier attire we would need for the races though, so most of us had to go shopping. But really that was just as fun as actually going to the races.
During the week before the trip to Leopardstown you could just feel the excitement building. The girls went shopping for dresses and jewelry in Dublin, while the guys went to a local thrift store in Maynooth to find sports jackets.
Oh, and the hats! It was so entertaining to watch everyone walk into dinner on campus that night with their feathered headpieces, wide-brimmed sun hats and caddy hats.
Even though it was just a normal dinner in the campus cafeteria, it felt different that night; it felt fancier.
Once we got to the grounds it was a whole night of socializing with the locals, grabbing ice cream, and cheering on the horses from the grand stands.
The weather was sunny and warm—which was a miracle because just the day before it had been cold, windy and rainy.
After the races we saw the parade of horses up close on the green behind the stadium. It is mind blowing how strong and powerful these horses are, and how small the jockeys are in comparison!
Later we enjoyed our ice cream in the grass during a concert of contemporary Irish music in the outdoor pavilion next to the grand stands.
All in all, it was a classy night full of derby style, low-key socializing, and good food. That night was my first time at a horse race, and in case it was not obvious, I cannot wait to go back! It is well worth the drive to Leopardstown, and I highly recommend that you visit Kildare at least once during the summer to attend one of these races.