Balmoral Show gets under way

ULSTER's most famous agricultural festival starts today in Belfast.

The 2008 Balmoral Show is set to show off the best of Northern Ireland, offering its usual extravaganza of colour, competition and showmanship.

Rural living

The show – which will run until Friday – will boast every aspect of rural living including livestock, agricultural equipment, machinery displays and over 400 trade stands.

Show organisers promise that along with daily displays of pedigree horses, ponies, cattle, sheep, poultry, pigs and goats, this year's show has added a number of interesting new features.

Good food ambassador and celebrated chef Jenny Bristow will be delivering live masterclass sessions within the food pavilion.

Family event

With the support of some of Northern Ireland's finest food producers, Jenny will be offering audiences top tips on creating healthy, convenient dishes.

An 8ft robot named Titan is also expected to take up residence at this year's event.

Having mastered his communication skills by watching films downloaded onto his hard drive, Titan is hoped to treat everyone he meets to a quick one-liner or serenade.

Tots to teens will also be entertained within the 'kids' zone'.

Young show visitors have an opportunity to hold, stroke and feed the baby farm animals at the Asda Children's Farm and get acquainted with a range of freshwater fish including trout, bream and carp at the touch tank supplied by Northern Ireland charity Angling First.

Meanwhile, the brave-hearted can test their co-ordination skills on the bungee trampoline, rodeo bull and simulators.

However, other firm favourites and regular features will remain including the dog agility competition, pony club games, riding for the disabled, the sheep dog and duck display and sheep shearing contests.

Bumper crowds

The show is open from 8.30am until 8pm daily.

Admission charges range from 5 to 15 depending on circumstances (ie full and half day tickets, group and concession rates). There is no charge for children under 12 years when accompanied by an adult.

Meanwhile, police last night warned that traffic delays are expected in the areas around the King's Hall for the duration of the show – in particular around Stockman's Lane, Boucher Road, Lisburn Road, Balmoral Avenue and Malone Road.

There will also be park and ride facilities at Queen's playing fields and Boucher Road playing fields.

Thousands soak up wall to wall sunshine at Balmoral