Ireland, West Virginia, residents and friends gathered in the wee hours of Wednesday morning to mark both an end and a beginning. The town's annual Irish Spring Festival ends each year at the moment the seasons change and spring starts. The diehard festival goers end the festival with a hike up a mountain to cheer at Ireland's own Blarney rock. At 6:30 in the morning, that's easier said than done.
"Well in the dark it's a little difficult. We sort of tagged behind so we ended up crawling up the hill because we lost the path, but it was a lot easier coming down in the daylight," said hiker Nancy Furby.
Festival Queen Connie Bleigh was on hand to bring the festival to an official close after the hikers returned from the trail, marked with signs referring to points on Mount Everest. Bleigh is looking forward to spring, but said she'll miss the relaxing time spent at the festival.
"Oh, just being here, running around with friends and neighbors, and just hanging out," Bleigh said.
While some people make the trek up the hill each year, it was Furby's first trip to the Blarney Rock. Despite the tough path up, she said she was happy to mark the changing of the seasons at such a beautiful place.
"Oh, man, I'm going to post this on Facebook and see how many other beautiful spots in Lewis County there are to watch the sun rise or watch the sun set. I think that'd be a pretty neat club, actually."
Those who didn't want to brave the early hour for the annual hike this time around will be in luck next year. Spring 2014 begins on March 20 just before 1 p.m.