Balmoral set to pull in a record 100,000 visitors
Inaugural four-day event to smash last year's numbers
Visitor numbers at the Balmoral Show are expected to crack the 100,000 mark for the first time, as the warm weather and an extra day of celebrations are expected to bring families out in force tomorrow.
And it's good news for the region's agri-food businesses which are expected to benefit to the tune of nearly a million pounds' worth of promotion alone.
While organisers have no official estimate on the economic impact of the show on Northern Ireland's agri-food sector, industry experts reckon it could be worth millions to the region.
Food NI chief executive Michele Shirlow said she estimated the promotional value of the Food Pavilion alone to be between £500,000 and £1m as the marquee draws in journalists from around the world and is given significant airtime on broadcast outlets such as RTE, BBC, UTV and dozens of radio stations.
This year, around 20 buyers from major retailers will also be seeking out the best food and drink products to stock.
Ms Shirlow said: "This year, the big trend is for charcuterie, and we have also seen a lot of councils get on board to showcase several producers. The council stands are a good way for start-ups to get a presence at the show as they can take a place on the stand for a day and swap with another producer the next. And with buyers from Applegreen, Tesco, Dunnes, Musgrave and Aldi visiting the Pavilion is a great opportunity to get their products seen."
Dr Esmond Birnie, Ulster University economist, said the benefits of this year's Balmoral Show to the region's agri-food sector aren't just financial.
"There may be other 'non-quantified' effects, a certain feel-good factor for the agri-food and any favourable publicity, especially international publicity and the aid this gives to marketing NI's products," he said.
"However, on the negative social side there is the congestion and pollution cost of traffic queues on the way into the show."
The four-day agricultural extravaganza is expected to draw in crowds from as far as Dublin, with organisers targeting the city in its advertising campaign, and is expected to push attendance up from the 90,000 visitors in 2016.
Saturday - the extra day added this years - is expected to be one of the busiest days, alongside Thursday. The Balmoral Show will run this year from tomorrow until Saturday at Balmoral Park, Lisburn. It's expected the weekend day will be popular with working parents and with several of the breed championships scheduled the same day, it's also expected to retain the core agricultural audience.
Rhonda Geary, operations director at the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society - the organisation behind Balmoral Show, said it had been a good year for entries.
"This year we've seen a big year for the number of horses and ponies entered - as it stands, entries are in the region of 650 horses," she said. "Over the week, more than 1,000 sheep have been entered with a further 1,300 on-site for the shearing competitions. The weather always plays a big part in turnout numbers, but we're really hoping to break the 100,000 mark.
"It will always fluctuate day-to-day depending on what's happening. Thursday is traditionally one of the busiest days because there's a lot of the young farmer events running that day and the show is open until 8pm.
"We're expecting Saturday will be very busy too. We think it will draw a lot of families and we're also running a lot of the championship competitions that day so we'll keep our core agricultural audience.
"We also expect a bigger turnout from the south. This year we have been targeting a lot of our advertising in the Republic, particularly in Dublin."
Also entered are 550 beef and dairy cattle - including a selection of Clandeboye Estate's prize-winning Jerseys and Holsteins. The estate uses milk produced by the herd to make its yoghurt.
And BBC Radio Ulster presenter Karen Patterson will also judge a new 'champion of champions' - a new event which will see the champion rabbit pitted against the champion horse and cow.