THOUSANDS of men, women and children are expected to go through the gates in Ballynoe for the 2014 Newcastle West Agricultural Show when it gets underway just after 9am this Sunday.
And hopes are high that this year’s show, the 86th in its long and relatively unbroken history, will put it back on track as one of West Limerick’s must-see events, following a dip in numbers last year.
“It is one of the oldest shows in the country,” Seamus Leahy, show secretary pointed out this week. “It is still very much a community event and we are still depending on local businesses to give us sponsorship,” Mr Leahy went on. “Without them we wouldn’t have a show.”
The show, however, is not without its casualties. There will be no cattle classes this year, partly as a result of lack of sponsorship. Cattle numbers were poor last year, Mr Leahy explained. “We decided to give it a miss for a year.”
But competitions for sheep and poultry will go ahead and the numbers for pony and horse competitions and for the showjumping and dog shows are very healthy.
“There are 52 classes alone for horses and ponies, excluding the show-jumping,” Mr Leahy said with evident satisfaction. And there are almost 20 show-jumping classes, the most competitive being the Class 6 event for three-year-olds. “This is the last chance to get a place for the RDS,” Mr Leahy pointed out.
But the show committee is also stressing the family fun aspect of next Sunday’s show. There is no entry charge for children, Mr Leahy explained, and by paying €5 inside for a wrist-band, children can avail of a wide range of entertainments for no further cost.
The Dog Show and Donkey Derby are being flagged as highlights. “This is our second year running the Donkey Derby Grand National,” Mr Leahy continued and contestants are expected from all around the country. There will be a series of heats before the grand final is run.
The Dog Show has also grown in popularity over the year and this year’s open event will feature 11 classes,
including three qualifier events. And there will be lots of other competitions such as Bonnie Baby, Glamorous Granny, Best Dressed Man and Woman as well as a tea-tent, a bar and a lot of trade stalls.
Show-jumping and horse and pony events are scheduled to begin at 9am, and gates open to the public at 10am, with the Dog Show starting at 2pm.
“The site is in good nick,” Mr Leahy said happily. And all the committee members are hoping for now is a relatively fine day - and a lot of support.