Live Balmoral Show Day 2, 2016: Full results, video and pictures - Bullish sun beats down as crowds flock to Maze extravaganza
The organisers of the 2016 Balmoral Show were praying for sunshine - and after a slightly shaky start they got it.
Royal Ulster Agricultural Society operations director Rhonda Geary said she was very pleased with the crowds for the first day of the annual showpiece.
"The planning went very well and the weather has really helped us this year," she added.
"We have 3,500 animals on-site over the next three days and all the stockmen and women are competing for a total prize fund in the region of £140,000.
Rhonda continued: "I'm very pleased with day one - so far there is a great buzz and a lot of people out and about. It's very busy and the traders are reporting a good day so far.
"We had to make sure we were prepping and watering the arenas as we knew it was going to be dry. Although the bit of rain overnight helped, we were using the irrigation systems to have them in pristine condition."
Early showers made way for brighter skies as people began to pour into the showgrounds at Balmoral Park, on the former Maze site, the smell of melting fudge and sizzling burgers filling the air.
One of the most popular additions was the Edible Garden created by Jilly Dougan, who was promoting her Sow, Grow, Munch book. It is being made available to schools and is free for families to download.
Jilly even transplanted her show garden from last week's Garden Show Ireland at Antrim Castle. "It's just to show people what they can do in a small space," she said. "It's about creating a wee garden and growing food, cooking and eating it."
Meanwhile, everyone was queuing up to get a picture taken with the Mighty Spud, icon of a new campaign to promote locally grown potatoes.
Ian Duff from the campaign said it was being supported by Slimming World, countering the image of spuds being fattening.
"It's not the potato that's fattening, it's the stuff we put on it," he said. "A lot of people think that if you get a potato that's slightly blemished it's not good, but we're saying beauty is only skin deep."
Another draw for selfies was the Alouette helicopter greeting visitors arriving at the grounds, put on show by the Ulster Aviation Society. The helicopter was part of the Irish Air Corps fleet and is one of 30 aircraft kept at the site.
One of the show's most famous visitors was Ireland rugby captain Rory Best, who was helping to launch an ecumenical memorial service aimed at supporting victims of farm accidents.
Best spoke about how the Spence family tragedy had hit his family, inspiring him to help to support other people in similar circumstances.
Best's Ulster Rugby colleague Nevin Spence, his father Noel and brother Graham died after they were overcome by fumes in a slurry tank on their family farm in 2012. His sister Emma recovered in hospital after trying to rescue them.
Best, who is also a farmer, said: "If my being involved can raise publicity, the more you do to promote safety, the better." He added that the first time he was at the annual Embrace Farm Week Remembrance Service he found it quite tough because the room was full of raw emotion. "They have something very sad in common, but it gives them an opportunity to talk about it," Rory said. "There is a lot of good coming out of it and a lot of talking and sharing, which is really good to see too."
The ecumenical service will take place at 2pm on Sunday, June 26 in the Church of the Most Holy Rosary in Abbeyleix in the Republic.
The event is the brainchild of Brian and Norma Rohan. Brian explained how they came up with it after the death of his father Liam Rohan, who was a judge in the Northern Ireland Ploughing Championships for many years. Liam was struck on the head by a piece of machinery he had been working on at his farm. "Dad was killed four years ago in a farm accident," Brian said. "After the funeral we felt he was a statistic for everyone that didn't know him."
Brain and Norma knew of other organisations that held memorial services, and it gave them the idea to set one up for victims of farming accidents. It has attracted hundreds of guests and is open to anyone interested.
They also described hearing from one Northern Ireland mother who said hardly anyone remembered the son she lost in an accident 19 years ago.
"It's their day - they don't need to feel guilty about talking about loved ones," Brian said.
- Anyone interested in the service can contact the Rohans at 00353 85 7709966, www.embracefarm.com or @embracefarm on Twitter