Northern Ireland’s largest annual festival of all things farming was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid and held in a slightly reduced format in the delayed slot of September last year.
But the third day of the 2022 event confirmed that the lauded event is truly back to its best, with the crowds and atmosphere picking up just where they left off before anyone had heard of Covid.
Operations Director Rhonda Geary told the News Letter on Friday afternoon: “The visitor figures have just been fantastic, they have just grown day on day. I think my anticipated target of 100,000 visitors over four days should be well and truly met.
“Today has been a fantastic day for the crowds coming in, we have had lots of school groups, and just had our international show jumping grand prix, the pony club games and a nice polo display to end off the day.
“The cattle lawns have been busy with our dairy judging - the dairy cattle championship will have been crowned today - and the winners of those will come forward on Saturday for the champion of champion awards.
“So all in all it has been a great third day. It was slightly breezy at times but it has been dry and we have had warm conditions for people walking around.
“The Met Office is forecasting a good day for Saturday, just overcast but dry and with temperatures going up to 17 degrees with a wee bit of sun coming through in the afternoon; We will certainly take that - though a wee bit of rain overnight would be nice just to dampen the ground and keep the dust down for the last day.”
The Friday atmosphere was vintage Balmoral Show; the smells ranged from the wafting gourmet burgers to the warm scent of prime livestock of all types and the gentle breeze on the face. The noises varied from the constant buzz of the ever moving crowds, to screaming youngsters enjoying terrifying fairground rides, and the roaring of cattle mixed with the authoritative tones of the judges on public address systems.
Farmers and would-be farmers of all ages were drinking it all in - from the infants simulating real work on mini-earthmovers, to wild herds of teenagers, loved up young couples in barbour jackets, doting dads with toddlers hanging off them, strapping young farmers who just stepped off the farm and the gentlemen farmers in their designer tweed jackets and jeans and bright tailored shirts. And last but not least, the ‘auld worthies’, invariably spotted in small groups examining the latest piece of esoteric machinery.
Also on display at the show are several dozen of the legendary Massey Ferguson tractors, the design for which mainly originated with Dromore inventor Harry Ferguson (1884 - 1960).
Sam Neill of the Massey Ferguson Worldwide Facebook site had invited members to bring their vehicles. The oldest model on display is the 1952 Ferguson T20. Speaking to the News Letter, Sam pointed out the legendary ‘three point linkage’ on the rear of the tractor.
“This left it that the tractor and the implement [being pulled] become one item... and this design is still on all modern tractors today.
“He [Ferguson] was a man so ahead of his time that he developed a four wheel drive coupling, ABS braking and an aircraft - yes he was the first man to fly in Ireland.”
One seasoned observer added that every day so far this week has been dramatically busier than the September show.
“In fact this Wednesday was the busiest Wednesday we have had since the show went to a four day week about five years ago,” they said. “Clearly people have been keen to get back to the show for a good day out and some fun. The mood is perhaps a little more buoyant than 2019 because people are so glad to be back.”
Drivers can park at the venue, at Halftown Rd, Sprucefield, BT27 5RFl. Buy tickets, see the events timetable and view the livestream at www.balmoralshow.co.uk. A free shuttle bus from Lisburn train station is running every day and coaches are also running from Strabane and Enniskillen. See: www.translink.co.uk/balmoralshow