Balmoral Show 2010 Day Three: Mixed feelings over new site for showpiece event
It will be with mixed feelings that the organisers of the Balmoral Show move to another site — when the time comes.
The show has outgrown its |current site at the Showgrounds in south Belfast and was supposed to move to a new venue at the former Maze Prison — but those hopes have faded after plans for a multi-purpose stadium fell through.
In the meantime, the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society had secured planning permission to build homes on part of the Balmoral Showgrounds site.
Robin Morrow, the new RUAS president, said a number of people had told him “if it's not broken, don't fix it” during this year's show, and he would miss the Showgrounds himself.
“The atmosphere here is very special,” he said.
“At the moment there's no alternative — there are alternatives out there, but nothing solid.
“After the last two days, I think there's something about the place — maybe it's my age but I hope I am not having to take the decision.”
A number of fans have posted on the show's website during the last few days appealing for Ireland's biggest agricultural show to stay at its current venue.
RUAS chief executive Colin McDonald said the show may even be forced to share a site with the builders once the work starts in a few years' time.
“There are plans for a centre of rural excellence, like a science park, only agricultural,” he said.
“The show would be part of that but not all of it. The question is — is the brand strong enough to be moved?”
Mr McDonald conceded that it may be difficult to run the show at Balmoral if part of the site changes hands, but not impossible.
“Instead of the cattle accommodation, we could have a marquee, we did that with the blonde cattle this year and it worked very well,” he said.
Mr Morrow said this year's show had proved a huge success, with a first in a Royal visit and a Presidential visit in the one week.
“I think there's an indication that farming is turning a corner — mainly the milk sector because world demand for powdered milk has increased and the price to producers has gone up significantly over the last years,” he said.
“The beef people are still complaining about prices and they haven't gone up with the demand there has been.
“I think farming is on the up and the British public is beginning to see the importance of homegrown food.”
The amount of effort to make the show a success was evident after there were some teething problems with the showjumping arena. The material used on the ground proved not to be ideal for the riders. A crew of seven worked under floodlights for 14 hours on Wednesday night to get the problem sorted.