Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

The Balmoral Show: 20 fascinating facts on the annual agricultural extravaganza

Showjumper Jessica Burke
Some of the livestock from last year's Balmoral Show
Judges inspect middleweight Hunters in 1970

The Balmoral Show starts tomorrow. Amanda Ferguson looks at what makes the annual extravaganza of all things agricultural so special in the calendar.

1. 2014 marks the 146th year of Ireland's largest agri-food show and its second at the 65-acre Balmoral Park, following a move from the 32-acre King's Hall complex to the Maze/Long Kesh site.

2. From May 14-16 around 80,000 people are expected to journey to Lisburn for the extravaganza of colour, competition and showmanship along with daily displays of pedigree animals.

3. Farmers and young handlers will compete in a number of competition categories including horses, children's ponies, sheep, goats, pigs, pigeons, poultry, eggs, rabbits, calves, beef cattle, dairy cattle and sheep shearing.

4. In 1966 a Red Devils parachute team made a perfect four-point landing in the main Balmoral arena. Spectators feared a seventh skydiver had been badly injured, but it turned out to be an unopened reserve parachute which had fallen onto ground north of the enclosures.

5. At the 2009 show Dale Farm Dromona cheese was used to make sculptures of the First and Deputy First Minister.

6. In 1903 when King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visited Balmoral, he said they had received "the biggest outburst of cheering and applause ever heard in Belfast".

7. International showjumping at this year's show will see some of the top and up-and-coming young riders from Egypt, Canada, Thailand, Switzerland, Spain, Great Britain and Ireland compete head to head.

8. There will be around 520 trade exhibitors and 1,000 livestock exhibitors at this year's event, with around 3,000 coveted rosettes awarded after 93 judges make their decisions.

9. At the first Balmoral Show in 1896 – the 41st organised by the North East Agricultural Association, which is now known as the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society – prizes totalling nearly £1,000 were on offer.

10. The entry list at the first Balmoral Show in 1896 totalled 1,391, which was nearly three times that of the first North East Agricultural Association of Ireland Show in 1855.

11. The 107th annual show was postponed on the eve of the opening after the Ulster Workers Council strike brought Northern Ireland to a standstill in 1974.

12. RUAS solid silver trophies featuring generations of winners' names engraved on them are exhibited in the Members' Room. The octagonal shaped room was launched in 1965 at a cost of around £150,000.

13. Danco is responsible for most RUAS marquees on site. The largest marquee is for the cattle accommodation at 7,000sq m.

14. The first fatal aviation accident in Ireland took place at the Balmoral Show in 1912 when an airman was killed during a flying exhibition. Mr HJD Astley died of a fractured skull and brain lacerations.

15. In 1937, 25,000 children greeted King George VI and Queen Elizabeth after the showgrounds were chosen as the venue for the uniformed organisations of Ulster to greet the royals on their Coronation visit.

16. Notable visitors over the years include Mary McAleese, Prince Charles and champion racehorse Red Rum.

17. In 2007 the show went ahead despite the discovery of a pipe-bomb in the front garden of a property yards from the venue on Balmoral Avenue.

18. The show suffered a drop in takings in 1904 due to inclement weather, and in 1910 Balmoral's Londonderry Hall was blown down by a hurricane.

19. Since 1991 the show has been three days rather than four, due to a decline in the depression-hit agricultural industry.

20. Robert Harkness won the RUAS 2013 President's plate, acknowledging his contribution to the society over 26 years.

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