Some young visitors may be experiencing Balmoral Show for the first time this week, while seasoned regulars will be looking ahead to renewing old friendships – and even rivalries – as the Province’s largest agri-food show gets under way.
For south Armagh farmer Robin Irvine Balmoral Show has come full circle.
As a schoolboy he fondly remembers making the trip to the show – which begins at the Eikon Centre today – with his parents to see the cattle shows.
In 1997 he went one better when he returned to Balmoral to take a champion prize of his own, showing Hereford cattle.
The 66-year-old has since been honoured to perform duties as a champion judge at Balmoral, and now in his role as CEO of the NI Grain Trade Association he sees the show as an important opportunity to network.
As a veteran visitor to the show, he also enjoys seeing the next generation of agriculturalists enjoying the show and being inspired by it, just as he was six decades ago.
Robin said: “I remember going as a schoolboy, I never thought I’d be back as an exhibitor myself.
“Back in those days the journey from south Armagh to Belfast wasn’t a simple one.
“I think as a young fella, trotting along behind your mum and dad looking at all these massive cattle I never could imagine I’d be part of it, at the forefront of it.
“When you stand out there with a breed champion it is something special.
“The first time I exhibited was at least 35 years ago.
“We always had great fun exhibiting but the highlight was to win our championship at Balmoral, that was a big achievement.
“If you’re a competitor, the pinnacle is your regional royal show. The Royal Ulster for folks in this part of the world is the ultimate accolade.”
He said that being selected as a judge for Herefords was another honour as very often the judges are brought from outside the Province.
Of this week’s show he said: “I’m looking forward to the cattle. I’ll be watching the judging of the Herefords and I’ll be judging the Simmentals. It’s a thrill to be there on the cattle lawn even when you’re not exhibiting.
“From an agribusiness perspective there will be various receptions and functions that allow a great opportunity for networking.”
Balmoral Show at the Eikon Centre begins today and runs until Saturday, starting at 9.30am each day.
Visitors can browse more than 650 trade stands, visit the NI Food Pavilion showcasing the very best of local produce, and watch hundreds of competitions and classes, as well as indulging in a wide range of family entertainment and attractions.