Irish Road Bowling to return with the annual Irish Spring Festival

Irish Spring Festival visitors prepare for the Irish road bowling event. PHOTO SUBMITTED

IRELAND — Irish Road Bowling, a little-known sport that traces its roots to the Emerald Isle, has been played in the United States since the 1800s when an influx of immigrants of Irish decent began to settle in America. The premise behind Irish Road Bowling is fairly simple, a team of bowlers roll a small iron or metal ball (road bowls) down a country road, attempting to navigate the tricky angles and curves to roll your ball the length of the 1-to-2 mile course in as few rolls as possible. The team/competitor that completes the course in the least number of rolls will be declared the winner. Good throws can travel upwards of 300 yards, but can be impacted by the twists, turns, and tilt of the course, presenting a uniquely fun and rewarding challenge for first-time participants. 

One big reason that many have not heard of the ancient sport of Irish Road Bowling can be credited to the sports waning popularity in the years immediately following the Civil War, almost entirely erasing the sport from our social, cultural memory. Irish Road Bowling was virtually non-existent in the United States until the sport began an unlikely period of resurgence in the 1990s after a chance trip to Europe from a few residents of the small, humble rural community of Ireland, West Virginia. Soon after their return to West Virginia, organizers of the community’s annual Irish Spring Festival promptly began to experiment with putting together a road bowling event of their own as a part of the festival. The first official road bowling event in West Virginia took place in Ireland in the spring of 1995, since them it has become one of the festival’s biggest draws, bringing people from all over the world to this tiny North Central West Virginian community. Today, Ireland, West Virginia is considered by many to be the beating heart of the sport of Road Bowling in the United States.

Road bowling at this year’s Irish Spring Festival is set to start 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 19. If interested, details about the Irish Road Bowling events taking place in West Virginia, as well as other opportunities to play this wonderfully exciting and engaging sport around the Mountain State can be found at the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling website or the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Facebook Page. These pages also sell road bowling equipment, but many events can be entered without equipment provided you pay a ball rental fee. 


Sunday, March 13th 

12 pm - Flag Raising Ceremony followed by   Dedication of the Veterans Wall performed by Ireland Lions Club & LC Honor Guard 

Pot O’Luck (covered dish) Dinner immediately following ceremony 

2:30 pm - Pslams of Ireland (Gospel Sing at Ireland U.M. Church) 

Thursday, March 17th

9:00 am - Local Elves & Urchins (Local Schoolchildren Visit) 

7:00 pm - Opening Ceremonies 

7:15 pm - King/Queen Reception 

Entertainment by the “Strum-Alongs” 

Friday, March 18th 

7:00 pm - Irish Jig (Square dance) 

7:00 pm - Costume Contest 

8:00 pm - House Decorating (Winners Announced) 

8:30 pm - Costume Contest (Winners Announced) 

9:00 pm - King/Queen Coronation 

Saturday, March 19th

Arts, crafts, Irish food and drinks, Harp music & a wide array of gifts available from 9:00-4:00pm at the Ireland Community Building 

9:00 am - Scavenger Hunt 

9:15 am - Kite Fly 

10:30 am - Intermediate Harp Workshop 

10:30 am - Tour de Shamrock (10.5 mile bike tour) 

11:00 am - Foul Shooting Contest 

11:30 am - Harp Concert Rehearsal (Ireland U.M. Church) 

1:00 pm - The “MARCH” Parade 

2:00 pm - Harp Concert (Ireland U.M. Church) 

2:30 pm - Road Bowling 

3:00 pm - Beginners Harp Workshop (Harps available) 

4:00 pm - Just Ducky Sweepstakes! (Duck Race) 

4:30 pm - Budding Shamrocks (Talent Show) 

7:00 pm- Luck O’the Irish (Bingo) 

Sunday, March 20th 

11:00 am- Assent to Blarney Rock 

11:32 am - Vernal Equinox 1st day of Spring 

Noon-4:00 pm - Irish food & drinks 

12:00 pm -Snake Chase (5K walk/run) Sponsored by LC Blueprint Community 

1:30 pm - Road Bowling 

2:00 pm - Frolic in the Field (Children’s field day @ Mabel’s Field) 

4:30 pm - Fried Potato Contest 

6:00 pm- Unicorns, Gremlins & Shamoos (Pet Show)


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