Thousands enjoy what may be last day at Balmoral
It could be the final Balmoral Show in the south Belfast site — and the crowds were making the most of it.
Thursday’s heavy rain held off yesterday and the showgrounds were packed with crowds of people enjoying the colour, sounds, tastes and smells of Ireland's biggest agricultural show.
Among the visitors was former Belfast Telegraph agricultural editor Michael Drake who has been coming to the Balmoral Show for 40 years — “man and boy”.
Although members have yet to vote on proposals to move to a more spacious site at the Maze, he said the move is necessary.
“We are all hidebound and tied by nostalgia and we don't want to leave Balmoral,”he said.
“But the hard fact is that if we don't leave Balmoral, Balmoral will leave us within a few years, because there is so much competition out there.”
Samba drummers mingled with yodellers, the smell of frying bacon and burgers competed with Spanish tapas and seafood salad from the Mourne Seafood Bar, and raucous motorcycling grannies.
There were also traditional pleasures such as the Victorian Magic Theatre.
Outside the venue, ice cream sellers handed out leaflets to the waiting queues pouring through the doors of the King's Hall, protesting over the number of ice cream and hot food vendors from outside Northern Ireland.
During a downpour, the crowds took refuge indoors, many surging to the Show Stage in the King's Hall to admire the style in the Best Dressed competition.
This year saw a record entry, with 28 style queens throwing their hats in the ring for a chance to win a holiday to Italy and a cache of other prizes.
Some were garbed in expensive designer outfits: others admitted to sourcing their frocks from the likes of Tesco or Primark. But all were dressed to the nines.
Winner Rachelle Liggett (21) from Portadown is a student teacher who is taking a year out after winning the Miss Ireland title and travelling to the Philippines to compete in Miss Earth.
Her white and ivory ensemble with floral parasol brought little Bo Peep to mind.
“It was inspired by the Belfast designer Una Rodden and her unusual cuts and stitching,” she said
“I mixed and matched — the dress was from Candy Plum, the hat was from Debenhams, the shoes were Kurt Geiger and the bag was from New Look.”
Runner up was civil servant Angela O'Rourke (43) from Banbridge, whose indigo outfit was sourced from charity shops.
“It's very much in the press at the moment about supporting your local charity shops — they've taken £1bn across the UK last year,” she said.