Balmoral Show is back with a bang - bigger and better than ever!

The Balmoral Show was back to its very sunny best today after two years of Covid disruption - with tens of thousands of visitors significantly exceeding the expectations of organisers.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 4:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 5:28 pm

The last full show was in 2019, with 2020 cancelled and last year delayed until September due to the pandemic, with a slightly reduced programme.

But today rural Ulster was back to its very best, proudly showing off its world class livestock and produce, the towering machinery with exponentially increasing horsepower and the annual banter between everyone from the auld worthies at the plough stand, to the crowds of teenagers awkwardly chatting each other up.

The sun attempted to break through from the very start, and after an intense 10-minute cloudburst the heat was on, the blue sky dominated and all the coats came off as the mercury rose.

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Andrew Bingham with his French Lop doe Daffeny at the 2022 Balmoral Show. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

If anyone had any doubts as to whether two years of disruption might have dampened demand for the event, they needn’t have worried.

The tailbacks upon approach started several miles back, just off the A1 dual carriageway and once inside, the crowds were as thick as Ulster clotted cream - even by 10am.

Rhonda Geary, Operations Director, said: “It has been a great start to the show and we had really good numbers in this morning. You can see the show grounds are really buzzing out there today - noticeably better than we anticipated. Wednesday is normally our quietest day, so if we get this going forward we will have quite a lot by the time Saturday comes.”

She believes there has been some pent up withdrawal symptoms for the annual festival of farming. The last show - out of its normal rhythm, as it was held in September, was probably about three quarters the normal size. 

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

It was great to get it partially up and running [last year] for the agricultural industry and charitable objectives, but also for the events industry in general, because there are so many businesses that rely on us, she said.

The resumption has also been a huge morale booster to farmers. “The number of entries we have had have been testimony to that. We have had fantastic entries across the board in all the livestock sections.”

The only exception was poultry due to the threat of avian flu, but even so, there is still a nice display of poultry from a single exhibitor.

There were also great entries in the equestrian section, along with the return of international show jumping, with competitors from Portugal, America, Australia, GB and The Republic taking part. The Six Nations Sheep Shearing competition is also a major coup for the event. This year also saw an interesting first, thanks to Richard Beattie, owner of Glenpark Estate near Omagh, a small hotel with an open farm. Thanks to him, the Balmoral Show enjoyed its first year ever with kangaroos on display, as well as two of his red deer.

Ten-year-old Hollie from Carneyhill Herefords proud shows off her animal. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Health Minister Robin Swann was letting his hair down after successfully being reelected, but was also overseeing the multi-faceted health outreach to the rural community lead by his department.

“It is important to realise the big interaction we have with the Department of Health through the agricultural and rural communities as well,” he told the News Letter. “So we are here with our farm families check, and rural support as well, but also we have our blood transfusion service here - we are promoting that as well. There is a big interconnection between what health can actually deliver [for] our rural communities and farming communities. We come here to the Balmoral Show actually to promote [these] and talk to people as well.”

Laura McAleese, of the Women’s Institute homecraft committee said it was critical for the organisation that the show is back to normal. Their craft, baking and floral stalls are back this year along with their tea rooms.

“We are so pleased to be back in business again, because this is the main fundraiser for WI through the year. We are a charity but we don’t have any other way of raising money,” she told the News Letter.“The Balmoral Show is where we would have enough money to keep us going throughout the year and not being here for two years has been very difficult. And this is our 90th birthday this year, so we are celebrating  our jubilee as well.”

Highlights of all events are now live streamed via the web - click here for more.

The full timetable of events can be viewed at www.balmoralshow.co.uk/whats-on/timetables

The Balmoral Show takes place at Balmoral Park, Halftown Rd, Sprucefield BT27 5RF and runs until Saturday.

Tickets can be bought in advance at www.balmoralshow.co.uk. The public can drive to the event as there is a public car park, however to reduce congestion there is also a free shuttle bus from Lisburn train station which is running for all four days of the show.

Goldliner coaches to the show will be available from Foyle Street, Strabane and Enniskillen bus centres. 

For more information on trains, the free shuttle bus and coach travel to the show, see www.translink.co.uk/balmoralshow