Castlewellan Show: Memorable golden jubilee
Thousands flocked to the heart of the Mournes as Castlewellan and District Agricultural Show celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday.
The town's 50-acre forest is an idyllic setting for the show - one of the largest agricultural events in the calendar.
The baronial-style castle, dating back to 1856, provided a fitting backdrop for the show field, which was packed with livestock exhibitors and spectators.
Among the crowd were Ballygowan couple Cecil and Molly Robinson, who have been loyal supporters of the Castlewellan Show for 50 years. Now retired, they first started exhibiting pedigree Charolais cattle at the one-day event in 1967, and have been key stalwarts of the organising committee for many years.
Show chairwoman Fiona Patterson has had a long association with proceedings as her mum Violet Bell was show secretary for 28 years.
"Castlewellan is somewhat like a family business for me," she said.
"I was elected to the chair in November and I'm privileged to be in this position as the show celebrates its golden jubilee. It's a fabulous day.
"The show has been a hive of activity from early morning and we've been blessed with warm, dry weather.
"Castlewellan is a family day out and offers a host of attractions for everyone. Exhibitors received gold rosettes to commemorate the anniversary event."
Anna May McHugh from Athy in Co Kildare judged the trade stands. Mrs McHugh is director of NPA, which hosts the National Ploughing Championships, an international three-day event attracting upwards of 300,000 visitors annually.
"This is my first visit to Castlewellan Show and it is a tremendous event," she said.
"The weather is great and the atmosphere is electric. There is a great selection of machinery and the retail trade area is colossal."
Mrs McHugh awarded the 2017 trade stand prize to Ballyward Plant Services, with Len McCoy Lawnmowers taking second prize.
Show secretary Jackie Fitzpatrick was delighted with the success of the event.
"We have visitors from all over Ireland and further afield," she said. "We are especially pleased to welcome past chairman Basil Lawson and his wife, who have travelled over from Scotland for today's celebrations."
Mrs Fitzpatrick confirmed strong support for the livestock, equine, poultry and home industries classes.
"Our trade area is completely sold out, and we've had a variety of classes and events running throughout the day," she added.
Some of the attractions included a fashion marquee, gourmet food, vintage teas, rural pursuits, dog agility, a family scarecrow competition and a pet show.
Organisers also paid tribute to cattle section secretary Marjorie Adams, who is retiring from the position after 10 years. Toast of the cattle parade was the Aberdeen Angus champion Old Glenort Yvonne, a two-year-old heifer from James Porter's 60-cow herd based at the Gillhall Estate near Lurgan.
Taking the reserve inter-breed award was the Simmental champion Raceview Goldie Dreamer, an August 2015-born heifer owned by David Hazelton from Dungannon. Claiming the second reserve award was the Salers champion Lisnamaul Kelly bred by PJ Maginn and Sons from Downpatrick.
The strongly-supported sheep section was led by a Suffolk shearling ewe owned by Robert and Jonathan Neill from Crossgar.
Winning the reserve interbreed award was the Charollais champion, an aged ram from Jim Bell's Lornbrook flock at Comber. Alastair Gault of Newtownabbey won the second reserve award with a Texel gimmer.
The agricultural show circuit is drawing to a close, with Shanes Castle Estate set to host the Randox Antrim Show next Saturday.
Clogher Valley Show takes place on Wednesday, July 26, while Fermanagh County Show in Enniskillen marks the end of the season on Wednesday, August 2.