Balmoral Show is a unique event in terms of smells.
One minute you could be greeted with the rather heady scent of the countryside courtesy of the plethora of farm animals who have abandoned their natural surrounds.
A few steps away and you’ll catch the aroma of some of Northern Ireland’s finest artisan produce.
While there is something rather special and homely about that farmyard odour, it is the smell of food and drink which attracted the News Letter to the NI Food Pavilion at yesterday’s show.
Chris Scott, from Scotts Crispy Onions, explained how important Balmoral Show was to the agri-food sector: “Our company has been going for around six years. This is our third time at the show. It’s massive for us to allow people to taste our product for the first time or taste our new flavours.”
The company, which is based in Aghadowey Creamery, was born from the family’s fruit and veg business, which was started by Chris’s grandfather Sydney Scott 60 years ago.
Chris said: “My grandad is 90 now but he’s still working away at the fruit and veg end of things.
“My dad Richard got the idea to specialise in crispy onions. The business is fairly niche. We sell to butchers and we supply convenience stores and deli counters all over Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We’ve bags for sale in some pubs in our area as well.
“We’re also really targeting sales to people to eat in their own home.
“The shelf life is five months, once opened you could get up to a week out of them. You can add them to a salad, burger, hotdog or a sandwich, or just snack on them as they are.”
The company has nearly 20 full-time employees and its flavours include original, smokey bacon, steak and Chinese salt and chili.
Chris revealed how they keep the onions so crispy: “The secret is down to the drying to remove as much moisture as possible without dehydrating them.”
Kircubbin-based Glastry Farm ice cream is a business which has made a name for itself in Northern Ireland, but has now got a foothold in the export market.
Sales and production manager Chloe Burgess revealed: “We’ve started exporting to Dubai. It’s all systems go. That said Balmoral Show is so important to us. We can’t forget about our home customers. Yellowman honeycomb has been our most popular flavour at the show.
“There’s a lot of competition in the ice cream business in Northern Ireland, you can see it here at Balmoral Show.”
Glastry Farm was started by Will Taylor, a fifth generation farmer and former Ulster Farmers’ Union president based in Kircubbin on the Ards Peninsula.
Chloe said: “More than 10 years ago he wanted to diversify his farm. He came up with the idea of luxury dairy ice cream.
“It’s got a very high cream content with no artificial colours and all natural flavours. All the milk comes from out own pedigree dairy herd. The whole process is done on site at the farm.”
A popular destination amongst the younger show-goers is the funfair which rings constantly with screams of excitement ... and a touch of fear.
The Free Style takes its passengers up into the sky and spins them around, seemingly randomly, thanks to a double pivot, while The Can Can seems like a fairly straightforward high-speed roundabout until pistons start propelling the sidecars up and down in what looks like a recipe for whiplash.
The News Letter asked a couple of young people who had just exited the Free Style what they thought of the ride.
Kirsty from Belfast said: “It was so mad, so scary, but I’ll probably have another go later on.”
Her friend Amy, also from Belfast, commented: “Amazing. I was screaming the whole time. I’ve near lost my voice.”